Gospel Of The Witches (Karyn Crisis)
The duo will be in the studio in June to record and some special guests are being brought in to add to the mix. Ross Dolan (Immolation) and Intronaut's Danny Walker are on board and the record will be produced by Jamie King. You can hear some of the previews of songs on her various pages and they all sound fresh and exciting.
In the meantime, Karyn's creativity is all over this project and the Kickstarter project she put into place to help fund the record. She has created some very interesting videos to preview the songs as well as explain some of the motivation behind the project. For incentives, she has offered up a dazzling array of treats all with a very personal for the fans who help with funding.
It's always a pleasure and a thrill to speak with Karyn and I did just that recently to talk about the record:
antiMusic: You have been in the planning stages for a solo album for several years now. What was the final push that made you realize you wanted to do this? Was it a lyrical idea that you wanted to impart or was it a sound you heard in your head that needed to be brought out or something more?
Karyn: It was a combination of things. When we started to work on the album, we recorded quite a few songs. And they all had a different atmosphere to them…a different vibe. So we'd start writing and a few of the songs seemed like they would go together and then things would change. And also during this period, I was changing as a person too. I was learning more. So I had to change all of that in the music too. Being that I'm not a musician and I don't even really consider myself a writer, I work hard to create things in my imagination first, like an atmosphere…a vibe, a concept and a theme.
So I have to really blame myself in that the more I was learning and the more I was discovering, that those things were changing subtly and that was affecting the way I was singing and some of the lyrics that were coming out and maybe musically…stylistically. So after a certain amount of time, we realized that the songs just weren't quite right yet. Although they were great songs the way there were, they weren't the ultimate expression that both Davide I were looking for. And it just took a certain amount of time until it was really ready.
It was just like when I joined Crisis all those years ago. I wanted to be in a band. I was looking to be in a band. Almost when I stopped looking, it suddenly happened. And that's pretty much indicative of my entire creative life. It's really about the muse or the spirit guide or the energy of the thing, underneath the end result. When that energy is ready to come out, it pretty much lets me know it's ready. I do put a lot of effort into trying to make it happen like visualizing and creating an atmosphere in my mind before it comes out on paper or on video or in vocals. But it's really a matter of when that greater energy is ready to come out, it'll come out. And that's pretty much what happened.
I had really been wanting to make this record for years and I was a little bit frustrated thinking "Why isn't it going and just starting and stopping?" But it just wasn't ready to come together in the way that it has now.
antiMusic: I think this is really interesting and you say this in almost every interview we do, you reference yourself as not a musician. Maybe you're not a guitar or piano player as such, but I don't know how you can not consider yourself a musician.
Karyn: Well, I don't consider myself a musician in the same way that I don't consider myself an artist. A lot of musicians that I know, like Davide for example….he has guitar playing in his blood. It's something that comes really naturally to him. But at the same time, he works really hard at it. He sits there in his recording studio and works on songs and riffs and he has incredible focus. He has an incredible desire to improve his craft and tremendous patience working with the electronics that are the tools of the trade. Because even if a song sounds effortless, he'll pour over it and make sure it's perfect. He'll work on his guitar tabs and he plays a lot. He plays every day.
And I'm not that way at all. Artists have sketch books and are constantly sketching and doodling and working on things. They might be drawing all day long on scraps of paper. I know a bunch of artists and I've had to come to the realization that this is just their process. And I'm really not that way in either of those two fields.
Musically, I can tell you from the past, every time I would write lyrics for a new Crisis song, it felt like I didn't even remember how to write a song. And I had to get out of the mental terror framework of mind of "What am I going to do now?" and let it just flow. It's the same with my vocal style. I don't have to work very hard to let it come out. There have been times where I've done vocal exercises on tour that I've learned in the later part of my career, to keep my throat in shape. But I don't really sing every day like a lot of singers do. I don't work to stretch my voice. I hear my voice in my head for the songs. And it's been that way since the beginning. I hear that voice reaching for the notes and I don't even know if I can reach them. Then I have to physically make it happen.
So everything happens in my imagination first. It's the same thing with my paintings. I don't know how to paint fabric. I don't know how to paint animals. The last couple of years I've even tried to get some books and understand how to paint with water. How to paint the folds in fabric. It's like math. My brain just didn't understand it. And just like with these songs I made the decision that I just want every effort to count. I don't keep a sketchbook. I don't practice on my drawings. I see a painting in my mind and if I can see a painting in its entirety and all its colors and composition, then I go to make it happen. And it comes out.
So I'm very different from a lot of people whom I consider to be musicians and artists who work on it every day. It's in their blood. I do it when energy feels like it needs to come out, otherwise I'm doing other things.
antiMusic: Tell us about the decision to record under the band name Gospel of the Witches.
Karyn: Well, that has to do with a lot of the things that I've done in the intermediate time when I left Crisis and now. That's another part of my life that I was trying to accept and come to terms with. So the album, in a way, is about the witches that have gone through these trials and tribulations throughout history in outing themselves and being healers and being energy workers and understanding the unseen world and connecting to their ancestors. So the album is a devotion to modern times practice of witchcraft. It's connecting to the energy that is the spirit in all things.
And in that same, it's an outing of myself as a witch, and as a healer and as a medium. So all of these things have come together in the last handful of years with me coming to terms with either things that I have come through since I was a kid which are natural parts of being a human being. And from me learning how to organize all these things and take joy and find the absolute glory and creative power there to focus it. And while the album is about that larger picture, it's also about my own journey into these things.
It's a very epic album because at the same time, through Davide's point, he channels these songs for me and I would say they are the exact kind of atmosphere I was trying to conjure in my imagination for this album. And so this album is like this kind of great testament of love from him for me on my spiritual witchy path which he has supported.
So there's a lot of intense emotion coming together here. It's a lot of me understanding my strengths as a singer and my voice and some new areas that I want to be free to explore. I invited Ross Dolan in on vocals and a lot of the ideas of these songs are sort of like emotional mantras. They're not like a Buddhist mantra in any way. They more resemble a metal mantra where parts of the songs are very repetitive and they pull you into this thick, undulating serpentine type of chorus. And I really wanted to have Ross in on that to bring masculine vocal performances that even I couldn't reach with my own voice. In the past I would double my own voice to explore all the feminine and masculine possibilities and bring those two powers together in union.
And for this album, I realized that I had some of my own limits and I would like to not have that limit the music. I would like to go beyond that even. So I'm free to let a more feminine side of my voice come out and in the heavier parts I can take that even further by collaborating with someone who has a really phenomenal voice, making the mix even thicker and better.
antiMusic: A few years ago, you were talking about wanting to show another side of your voice, a more melodic angle. Can we expect any of that on this record?
Karyn: Oh absolutely. There are passages in songs that are very melodic and there have been glimpses of that in the past in Crisis music, particularly in the earlier albums like 8 Convulsions. There is a long-time Crisis fan who I've kept in touch with over the years and a long time ago he said, "Why don't you make an album of nocturnal music, like haunting nursery rhymes?" And there's a side of me that always remembers what he said. There's part of me that loves music like that, like Cranes and Cocteau Twins so there's an element of my voice that's already been there like that but I always wanted to have a little more room to express that.
But because of who I am, I can't have one extreme without the other (laughs). It's not in my nature. But some of those songs will definitely have some of those really lilting melodies and some haunting, weird passages before they open up. And those are equally important to me.
antiMusic: How have the song ideas presented themselves to you? Do they come while you are involved in the creation of your other artistic endeavors, or during meditation or dreams or do you set aside time for traditional songwriting?
Karyn: It's interesting the way that this has happened. And it's almost a question for Davide. While he was working on the Ephel Duath EP and album, I was also focusing on what we were going to do on this, so I was really concentrating on the elements in my imagination, trying to conjure the atmosphere and the musicality if I was imagining these songs coming alive. What they would look like. What the landscape would look like. And so I had ideas sloshing around in my head that were very loose.
And almost as soon as the recording was done for the Ephel Duath album, Davide came home from the studio and he literally started popping out these songs. And it was really quick and we were both blown away. It was really a monumental thing that happened. He had just finished writing this very elaborate album that had layers and layers of guitars. It's phenomenal that he can do this. I mean, it's almost like a mathematician's brain but in emotions. Heavy layers of emotion. And it was like he just came home and started channeling these songs that I had conjured in my own imagination.
And it felt like he was receiving them from my spirit guide but that's more for him to tell than me. And he even has some interesting stories about how when he was trying to change parts of the song and the computer would malfunction in a way that was not a normal malfunction. And I would be in a room next to him meditating. There was definitely an energetic presence there watching over this album, making it happen which is the presence to whom I've devoted this whole album. My main spirit guide.
So this whole collaborative effort with both of us being open to that energy and also focusing in on things that we wanted to add to it. So it was fully collaborative in that he, again, was the one that drove all the sonic atmosphere and composition.
It was just amazing how it all came out. He would be in this daze, meditating for hours. We were just blown away by the intensity of these songs. And he would ask me if there was anything that I wanted to repeat or add anything musically. But there were just a few minor things like "Oh, repeat this here." Most of the songs were complete and then it was just time for me to let the lyrics come. And for me, that's always a combination of listening to the song and letting the words come right out, which happened with some of them immediately.
Same thing with some of the melodies. They would immediately come out, almost faster than I could write them down and sing them. And there were other times in a really relaxed period like sitting on a train listening to them or in the park, where the words would come out and later on I would decide to which songs they would fit. So again, it was just being in that nice loose connection in letting it happen.
antiMusic: What direction, if any, did you give him before he undertook the construction of the music?
Karyn: I just tried to describe to him a little film strip of sorts of the atmosphere that I was conjuring in my mind. The whole idea there was this idea of….I kept seeing this landscape, kind of post apocalyptic but not fear-ridden and the destruction of humanity kind of angle. But a construction of new monuments and control. I kept seeing this really old cathedral with the roof blown off and in the way these cathedrals tend to be built on this pagan site after pagan site. There's these really dark clouds rolling in from the horizon and instead of being scared by them, I felt they were this comforting energy just rolling through.
And also I felt like these clouds were going to take me into this deeper journey into myself. At the same time, I felt like snakes slithering on the floor and all these ancient symbols of wisdom and the journey within; balancing the light with the dark; receiving the mysteries of the universe to these personal challenges, all in this sort of darker haunting landscape that shows in the end that the ancient ways are the ones that everything in our modern world has been built on. So taking that idea further, I really liked this idea loosely attached to this broken down church of a death choir. In the past I've doubled and even tripled my heavy vocals to give like a choir effect so I had an idea of taking this idea even further in this work of devotion and adding layers and layers of vocals.
antiMusic: You have Ross Dolan and Danny Walker also on board. How did you go about selecting them?
Karyn: I spoke to Danny first. He was someone that Davide suggested and he was really enthusiastic about being involved in the project. Now this was about two years ago and we had a couple of the songs done and we sent them to him and he really liked them and was interested in working on them. However it wasn't quite time so I kept in touch with him and recently I said "We're ready to go. How do you feel?" And he said, "We're all in."
And Immolation I had originally known from the East Coast days. Ross was one of the first people I met in the metal scene and he was really kind to me and that always seemed to stay with me over the years. One night Davide and I were listening to music and he always seems to be the DJ (laughs) and he was playing "A Glorious Epoch", one of the things they did in collaboration with Scion. I just heard it and went "This is it! This is the man who needs to be singing on this album." And it just so happened that a couple of days later they were coming to San Francisco for the Decibel tour with Cannibal Corpse. So I sent him an email and he invited me to the show. We talked there and I told him about the album and he said "It sounds really great. Keep me posted." So whenever we had some rough vocal tracks and all the lyrics, I sent it to him and he said he really wanted to be a part of it. And I was really honored that the singer of my choice said yes!
antiMusic: When did the idea of side-stepping the notion of a label and by extension of that, incorporating a Kickstarter program come into the equation?
Karyn: Well, it wasn't really that I wanted to go without a label. I had reached out to some labels and in reaching out, I realized that I was going to have some of the same difficulties that Crisis did in the early days which is that my voice is weird. (laughs) The vision is a bit different artistically and I understand that. So for a business that needs to survive by categorizing things and marketing them, I just realized that it was going to be a challenge again. And it may take a lot more time than I expected. A lot more time. And I felt that the album is ready to be made. So I thought that this album was something that I could do on my own in bits and pieces.
Around the same time, people began to tell me about Kickstarter and Indiegogo and everything seemed to come together in my mind and make sense that for this album, hopefully things will grow from here. With any luck I will get a label and be able to tour and at least, keep the albums going. But I really just made the intention that I wanted every step of this album to be creative and wonderful and I wanted to enjoy it. Whether it gets all the way to completion at this time, I wanted it to leave its print of profound creativity.
So with every effort I make, it's going to be a celebration of the creative vision of this project. And so I also thought along that route --- I set up everything myself, the pre-production and doing the videos and getting the atmosphere out there as much as I could without having a complete album to do that with --- why am I not asking the fans? They are the ones who keep emailing me and asking me to make this music. And instead of asking the label for permission to work together, why don't I just ask the people who want to hear to help me make this happen? It just seems to make a lot more sense that way.
And like I say in the little films I made for it, it's just between us and I don't have to wait for someone else's permission to make this. I can try to get the money together through the fans or through myself in whatever way I can and actually get the album recorded.
antiMusic: I should have said this off the top but the videos you put together are amazing and I love all the songs I've heard so far. I think all of your fans that check this out will appreciate the personal touch that accompanies everything and indeed the project reeks of a profound creativity. What has been the response so far and has it met your expectations and further to that, do you think you'll be able to reach your goal?
Karyn: Well, first of all, I'm really happy to hear that it has resonated with you because I'm outing myself in a whole new way and since I wanted it to be a creative celebration, I just had to let go of expectations knowing that some people liked what I was doing in the past and some people like what I'm doing now. Not everyone will and that's the nature of life.
One thing that's come out of it is how wonderful it is to connect with people. I've always had this wonderful blessing of people sending me emails saying that "I always liked your music because…" or "your music got me through some hard times because….". Or even like on the Kickstarter page I included some commentary from Evan Wilson who was a fan who wrote me this incredible email before I started the Kickstarter saying something like how my music has made him feel protected. And he always sends me these incredible heartfelt emails and it makes me a little emotional because they're very beautiful.
And so this has continued with the Kickstarter. People are donating generous amounts and sending me these incredible emails. I'm reconnecting with people that I knew from the scene in NY or all around the country. So in addition to it being just this great creative project and me getting my voice back, there's this expanding web of connection with people and that's what it's really about anyway is people. So that's been a really beautiful thing. It's fun. And I've been meeting other musicians and artists and it's just as abundant as you can imagine and for me that's been one of the most exciting things about it.
In terms of reaching the goal, I'm going to stay positive to the end. And with Kickstarter, if I don't reach the goal, of course I don't get any of those funds. I've had people ask me this, that if I don't reach the goal, the money goes back to everybody who made a pledge. But I think I will just relaunch a little Indiegogo one because with them, you keep whatever you earn and you don't have to reach a certain goal.
And that's the thing because I know people are making really generous pledges so they're doing everything they can and we'll see how things do go to the end but please do keep an eye on my Facebook pages because if we don't reach the goal, there will still be another opportunity. Because from June 2 to June 24, we're already locked in to go into the studio with Jamie King in North Carolina and Danny is already booked to do his drums and Ross is booked in a different studio to do his vocals. Studio time is already booked and locked in.
So regardless of how far we get down that line, I need to get into the studio and not let all of those engineers down. So even if I don't quite reach my budget, I'll still be able to take care of all the studio and then I'll have to come up with plans to take care of all the rewards. But most of the funds are going towards the studio and paying the musicians. So I'm positive that one way or the other, we're going to make it happen. People are expressing, on a daily basis, their desire to help make this record happen and are just blessing it with good vibes and hope and wonderful contributions so we'll see where it goes.
But the nice thing about everything that's happening now is that I hope that in June when the record is recorded that it's not the end of the album. There's a life behind that. And that's what is making me so excited about the response from people. There is a great interest there and the life of the music can continue beyond the life of the album.
antiMusic: Obviously a label would help and we know all about the realities of touring etc in this day and age but are there plans to do any kind of presentation in a live setting? I guess you can't obviously say a tour but any one-off shows once the record is released or is it too early to tell at this point?
Karyn: It's too early to tell but that's my hope and desire. I just feel like these songs need to happen live but again, it's building things one step at a time. And doing the best you can with all those steps. Just getting the band together has been a real blessing…having these real incredible musicians involved, Davide and Danny and Ross and even Mike Hill from Tombs is going to guest on one song. So it's been great to get all these people who I would love to work with wanting to work with us.
It's been real phenomenal to get Jamie King in the studio. I can't even express how excited I am to have this album in his hands for not just the recording and tracking but also the mixing and the mastering. So in June I'll have all the formats in my hand, by a master of recording…Jamie. And then it's getting the CD and the vinyl to people and let's hope that as we keep working on this that there's going to be a value built. The way that things work in the music industry, you know, is that people want to work with bands that have potential or a value. A lot of that has to do with business and numbers and not just artistic vision.
But I'm just going through the process every day expecting miracles to unfold. I'm just determined to enjoy the process and celebrate every opportunity to connect with people for making this music happen in a really quality way. So one step at a time. I do keep my eyes on the horizon. I do have those goals of wanting to do this live. I really miss singing live. But you know, first things first. We have to get this album done and then we can let it speak for itself.
Morley and antiMusic thank Karyn for taking the time to speak with us.
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