Australia has always had a rich history in rock and metal music, from the days of AC/DC to the modern reverberation of the Metalcore and Deathcore contingent alongside the hellish Black Metal underground. But aside from that, one genre that seems to be simmering underneath is Industrial Metal and it falls on to bands like Darkcell to keep that burning flame alive. Having released their self-titled album this year, vocalist Jesse Dracman was happy to chat to GMA about the band's history, the local scene and future plans among other things.
"Our annual Psycho Circus this November will close one of our most exciting years to date."
For those who have not heard of Darkcell, could you give us the back story to how the band formed and the meaning behind Darkcell?
"Darkcell formed around 8 years ago initially as a studio project born from the ashes of a previous band Matt (guitars, electronics, production) and I had. We wanted to create a more Industrial heavy style that we love and grew up with. The debut album was half written when we got a call to open for Combichrist and the rest is history.
What is Darkcell? It’s open to interpretation and while we don’t claim to reinvent the wheel, we’ve certainly put our own definition out there. We’re the best band you’ve never heard!"
As an Industrial Metal band, do you feel the genre is not as prominent as it once was or is it amidst a revival?
"It never went away. People just got distracted and missed a lot of good music."
How would you describe your sound without the use of genres?
"Like a 4th of July fireworks extravaganza with all the intensity and finesse of a James Brown concert if he was possessed...was he?"
You released your self-titled album this year, what was the reception like?; have you had any fans get in touch from outside of Australia?
"It was the best reaction we’ve received yet. The streams and reviews have been our finest yet. It’s been an exciting cycle for us."
Will you look to play outside of Australia in the foreseeable future or have you done already?
"Always on our minds and we’ve toured Europe this year as well as the USA in 2015."
For metalheads visiting Brisbane, what sights / attractions would you recommend in seeing? What are the best bars and venues?
With 2019 closing up, what plans have you got between now and going into 2020?
"New music, bigger noise. Ain’t that always the aim? Here’s to a rad one. Our annual Psycho Circus this November will close one of our most exciting years to date."
Do you have any greetings, thank you's, etc that you wish to send out to friends, fans, etc?
"We are forever grateful to the fans that continue to support us and to those just finding us, welcome. Hail!"
The world of crossover music has always been there and for those eager enough to explore it, there are some rather spectacular and imaginative musicians out there. One such musician is Chinese-American cellist and erhuist Tina Guo, who has been a part of a countless number of musical scores most notably as a solo cellist, these include (but not limited to): 'Iron Man 2', 'Olympus Has Fallen', 'Vikings' (TV series), 'X-Men: First Class', 'Family Guy' and more. Moreover she has collaborated with world-famous musicians and composers such as John Legend, Hans Zimmer and Rupert Gregson-Williams respectively.
To top that she has appeared in the 'Mazda 6' and 'United Airlines' adverts respectively... in fact alongside this she has helped score for numerous video games including 'Diablo III' and 'Call of Duty: Black Ops' as well as releasing as of 2017, 8 albums of her own material with guests along the way; some of the albums are covers of game tunes e.g. her latest album 'Game On!' which has a metal feel to it and as Tina goes on to explain in the interview she had with GMA, there is something special about the relationship between metal and classical music.
Furthermore she has recently appeared on 'The Lion King' soundtrack to which she expressed absolute delight at.
"There is something about both Classical Music and Metal Music that has a lot of deep emotion and power."
At what point during your life did you want to become a musician? Did you have a strong music-orientated upbringing? Are other family members musicians?
"To be honest, I was forced into the family trade as a musician! Both of my parents are classical musicians and music teachers and I started on the piano at the of age 3, violin at 6, and cello at 7. Playing music and performing was a mandatory activity but it wasn't until I was 18 and moved to Los Angeles for University (studying Classical Cello Performance) at the University of South Carolina (USC) when I started really pursuing ways to make my own music, and just work as a cellist in order to pay the bills. I did a lot of work as a session musician and hired gun, and it helped me learn and familiarize myself with all genres of music, but my main love and obsession has always been Industrial Metal. I'm lucky that my "day job" of being a session musician has a lot of crossover with my own music!"
What was it like for you as a child moving from China to the USA? What were (if any) the challenges you had to face?
"I had to take my first grade twice because I had trouble learning English – haha! - but after that I was able to integrate pretty quickly. I always was a very shy person and hid in the library during most lunch periods throughout school because I felt too awkward to be outside and didn't feel like I belonged to any particular group of friends. However, I don't think that has to do with coming from China - that's just childhood in general! I was always drawn to people, art, and music that was gothic and dark however, and my world was completely changed when a goth kid in my middle school lent me his copy of "Antichrist Superstar" (Marilyn Manson) and I heard industrial music for the first time!"
Arguably your career has been rocketing skywards ever since you started making music, surely doing your own rendition of 'The Circle Of Life' is a dream come true?
"Being able to record cello solos on the soundtrack for the new 'Lion King' was amazing! I love Hans so much and am so appreciative and grateful for his friendship and mentorship. Since he saw my "Queen Bee" music video on YouTube 9 years ago, I have worked on many of his soundtracks and also tour with him in his live band. When he asked me to be a part of 'The Lion King', of course I was elated! Recording my own version of "The Circle Of Life" I felt was an appropriate way to celebrate the occasion!"
Out of all the characters from 'The Lion King', who is your favourite and why? What are your thoughts on Disney bringing their animated films to life these days?
"Pumbaa! He is hilarious and adorable. I really liked the live action 'Beauty And The Beast' - I think that it's a great way to integrate new technology with graphics and retell classic Disney stories in a new way."
You've done numerous albums, some involving metal music and so, could you tell us how you became interested in metal music? Do you feel classical music and metal music have strong correlations with each other?
"Yes! Industrial Metal is my main love and after hearing Marilyn Manson when I was 13 secretly, since I was not allowed to listen to anything but classical music in my household, the next big revelation came when I turned 18 and moved to Los Angeles to attend the University at the University of Southern California where I studied Classical Cello Performance. I felt my world open up when I was able to go online, watch YouTube videos, and discover so many amazing bands and artists - including my favourite band, Rammstein. I feel all music is just music, there is good and bad music in any genre - but to me personally, there is something about both Classical Music and Metal Music that has a lot of deep emotion and power.
From your experience, do you feel that classical music of any kind should receive more respect and recognition than it does currently?
"To be honest, I don't really play traditional classical music any more, but I think that there are so many amazing musicians online who are using technology and social media to connect with a new and young audience. I feel like if you want more people to recognize something, it also has to be made accessible and energetically open, not closed off because for members of the general public who have never had experience with Classical Music, it may seem intimidating. I think that Soundtracks are an amazing way for people to hear orchestral music, and it has really reinvigorated people in being curious about instrumental music based on the tradition of European Art Music."
For those looking to get into playing the cello or erhu, what tips and tricks could you offer? What make and model of cello are you currently using?
"Lots of practise! I practised 8 hours a day from when I started the cello at age 7 - in the past 10 years as I've gotten busier, I haven't been able to do as many hours but that foundation of technical ability is very important to establish when starting an instrument if it's something you'd like to pursue professionally. I would recommend find a good private teacher, and taking regular lessons - but most important is the follow through and practice.
My Acoustic Cello is an 1880 Gand & Bernardel that I purchased 7 years ago, I love him very much and his name is Cello Guo! I have a few bows but my favourite is by Lothar Seifert, with a Wholly Mammoth Ivory tip.
Do you have any greetings or thanks that you wish to send out to friends, family, fans, etc?
"I love and appreciate everyone who has supported my music and art, because without people to watch and listen, what is the point of music? Music and art is to communicate our own emotions and interpretations of the human experience, and I love being able to share that energetically with others.
Mentioning the Eurovision Song Contest usually brings to the fore the flamboyant outfits, lovey-dovey pop songs and the evident 'block-voting' syndrome. However occasionally the event delivers some rather outstanding and unique entries, from Heavy Metallers Lordi (delivered Finland's first ever win in 2006) to Hungary's Post-Hardcore group AWS (post-Eurovision performed at Wacken Open Air)... then came Iceland's turn to abandon the safe-zone, free itself from the shackles of formulaic Eurovision pop music and embrace a darker, more aesthetically-pleasing and original tone in the form of Hatari, who are a 'Award-winning, anti-capitalist, BDSM, techno-dystopian, performance art collective'.
Of course they are not a metal band, however arguably through their performance which befits that of a Rammstein show; through pyrotechnics, elaborate outfits and singing in a language that demands your utmost attention, they might as well be. The unfurling of the Palestinian flags will be seen as a political statement and perhaps the most controversial thing to happen at Eurovision (although the counter-argument is Ukraine's winning song '1944' by Jamela; centres around the deportation of the Crimean Tatars), could the Eurovision be political in that it allows Australia and Israel to participate, but not Kosovo nor Gibraltar or the Faroe Islands due to the latter two not being independent nations. With that in mind it does beg the question whether the ESC is contradictory in it's own rulings or whether there needs a massive shake-up... let's face it will Punk Rock ever get a look in? Maybe the UK should send the Sex Pistols... let's see how far that goes, but for now GMA caught up with Matthías Haraldsson, harsh vocalist of Hatari and discussed about post-Eurovision events, their first EP 'Neysluvara' and of course if everything is going according to plan.
For your listening pleasure we have included the single / music video for 'Klefi / Samed', curated by Hatari and Palestinian musician Bashar Murad. Next to this is 'Hatrið Mun Sigra', Hatari's Eurovision song, whilst the jurors did not really appreciate the song, the public vote was very high - they finished 10th... we like to think Europe understand the message Hatari are conveying.
Having performed at Eurovision, this surely was the biggest moment of the band's career thus far?
"Yes. Our participation went according to plan and part of that plan was reaching the masses of Europe."
Regarding the music video for 'Hatrið Mun Sigra', where was it filmed and how long did it take to shoot?
"The video was filmed in Reykjavik, Iceland. It took a few days to shoot under the careful direction of Hatari vocalist Klemens Hannigan and film-maker Baldvin Vernharðsson, who has proven to be an indispensable part of the Svikamylla Ehf crew."
Arguably 'Hatrið Mun Sigra' can be contextualised in many ways with the way the world is right now, would you say the song is more relatable now more than ever? (reflecting on the rise of populism in the recent European elections).
"We feel (that) 'Hatrið Mun Sigra' is a dystopia relevant to our current political climate, consumer culture, the context in which the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest took place, and the rise of populism in the recent European elections. This is the case with many of our songs."
You released the EP 'Neysluvara' back in 2017, would you say your sound has changed a lot since then? Would you agree that Hatari has it's own unique sound?
"All aspects of our performances undergo constant development, including our sound, although we work with many of the same elements and themes, including the impending doom of mankind."
With the release of 'Hatrið Mun Sigra' and 'Klefi / Samed (صامد)' ft. Bashar Murad, will Hatari deliver an album for the fans in the foreseeable future?
"Yes. Relentless Scam Incorporated, or Svikamylla Ehf, will announce the album's release when the time comes."
What was the reception like for Hatari when arriving back in Reykjavik? Are you concerned that RUV could be banned from Eurovision next year?*
"The reception was encouraging and our tour around the country with Bashar Murad went according to plan.
We are no longer concerned with the dealings of the Eurovision Song Contest. It would, however, be hypocritical to enforce a rule that every contestant broke on day one, as participation was in itself a political action."
What is the fetish scene like in Iceland?
"The fetish scene in Iceland is vibrant and has much to teach us about many kinds of safe, sane, and consensual activities."
What plans does Hatari have for the year ahead? Will we see you performing in the UK in the foreseeable future?
"We will play shows in many places where there is currently no illegal military occupation taking place. One of these places is London, where we aim to perform late this August."
Halloween is once a year, or is it? Not according to American quintet Eternal Halloween whose demonic stature is sure to garner attention from overseas as arguably the States answer to the UK's Evil Scarecrow. Moreover this Los Angeles (or as they might call Los Hellos), California-based horde have only been around a year and are already causing a buzz across the American Metal underground, let's just hope their name is not a reference to the Aiden song otherwise things could get quite confusing. Eternal Halloween were happy to spare some time to answer some questions GMA had in store for them...