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Marta Gabriel: "I guess it depends on a personal approach and self-confidence? So yeah, if there’s any young girl reading this: yes, you can. Play metal, sing metal, if that’s what you want to do – do it, because you can"

Interview with Marta Gabriel from Marta Gabriel
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 28 June 2021, 8:52 PM

Other than being the golden age of Metal music, some say its first real decade, or rather commercial decade, it was a decade that inspired the women of the genre to rise. For Metal music, which has been a male dominant scenery, women rapidly took on fronting and musicianship positions in band, making them golden gems as the era which they have been part of. Marta Gabriel, leader and vocalist of Crystal Viper, has been an 80s Metal major fan, and with the time given due to Covid, made it for a good use and is set to issue "Metal Queens", under her own banner. Steinmetal had to find out what was it all about, run through the gems of the release, talking to Marta about its importance

Hello Marta, once again it is an amazing pleasure to have you for this conversation for Metal Temple online Magazine, how have you been doing these days?

Hello, thank you for having me. I’m doing just fine, thank you!

A load some of excitement I am sure with the release of your debut solo record, “Metal Queens”. I presume that it was a sort of a needed icebreaker, in particular with what has been going on in the world, something to warm up yours, and people’s, hearts?

Yes, kind of. We knew we won’t be able to play shows right after “The Cult”, so instead of sitting, complaining and doing nothing, we decided to use that time the best we can. I love performing, recording and playing, and I love sharing it with the people, with the fans. I’m a fan myself; I listen to a lot of music. And I like to record cover songs, as it’s my way of showing people what are my musical roots, where it’s all coming from, and it’s my way of paying a tribute to my favorite artists. So when all those elements got connected, it resulted in the making of "Metal Queens”.

It has been no secret that you are one of the true 80s Heavy Metal fans, and also your songwriting, most of it actually, in Crystal Viper, has been following the golden age of Metal’s standards. Earlier on we talked about what is missing from the current stage of the Heavy Metal revival, and now we go back, decades earlier. How do you view the magic that is the essence of 80s Metal? How does it inspire you?

I think it’s quite simple, I simply like to record and perform music which is closest to my heart, the traditional, classic Heavy Metal and Hard Rock. It’s no big secret that the genre had its peak in the ‘80s, which indeed were the golden era when it comes to music.

Maintaining your relationship with the French Listenable Records, which has also been your recent host for the latest Crystal Viper record, “Metal Queens” is where the past is back to kick one’s ass. However, it is somewhat different from the usual tribute albums as you celebrated the power of the female vocalists of that era. Was this the plan to go through as this record started to take shape?

Both yes and no. I had this idea of doing a tribute album that would be a celebration of the original hard rock and metal queens, but I also wanted to make sure it’s going to be a solid album with its own identity. And I think we managed to achieve that, as I know it’s enjoyed by a lot of people who didn’t know original versions of those songs. So depending of your own interpretation, it can be labeled as a tribute album or a heavy metal album where all the songs were written by different people.

In light of the record, and with your experience as a female vocalist in the macho scene, how do you view the stature of the woman vocalist nowadays in comparison to the early days of the genre? Do you believe that female musicians, not only vocalists, feel more comfortable to become one with a scene of men?

Lots of people ask me similar question, and I don’t really know what to answer, or better, what people want me to answer. Sure, the metal scene is dominated by men, of course. But I have no problem with that. First of all, I never really paid attention to the fact if someone is a male or female. I care if someone is a good musician and I like his or her songs and performance or not, I do not judge musicians by their gender.

About feeling comfortable – the same. I do feel comfortable on a metal scene, I love playing, I love recording, that’s my place, and the stage is my home. I was never wondering if I can do something or not, because I’m a woman. I guess it depends on a personal approach and self-confidence? So yeah, if there’s any young girl reading this: yes, you can. Play metal, sing metal, if that’s what you want to do – do it, because you can.

A bit of a tough one for you, since you took on songs of some of the 80s gems, which of the vocalists that you supposedly entered their shoes, have been influenced by? Which female voice, and also image, inspired you to become what you are today?

To be totally honest, when it comes to the vocalists that really influenced me and my way of singing, I would need to list male ones, such as Rob Halford, Tony Martin, Bruce Dickinson or Ronnie James Dio… When I was digging deeper I was discovering bands such as Warlock,  Chastain and Zed Yago, so I guess we can talk about some kind of an early influence as well. But when it comes to the vocalists I covered on “Metal Queens”, they’re all equally important to me, I love all of them. They’re my Metal Queens!

It might be an obvious question, and I remember that I asked you something similar when you covered King Diamond earlier on. Nonetheless, every experience is different. Therefore, how did it feel to sing these old songs, bring them to life in a vibe that is different but the same? Did you feel the electricity running through you as you nailed these songs one by one?

It felt great, because I know all those songs by heart for ages. I didn’t need to especially learn them, sure, I didn’t remember all the lyrics, but all those melodies and vocal lines were already engraved in my brain. It wasn’t like that, that some of those songs were new to me, so it all felt really good.

Since the 80s had quite the share of female artists, whether part of bands or solo artists, playing Hard Rock and Heavy Metal, wasn’t it rather tough to select songs for this record? Have you thought of perhaps releasing another volume in the future in order to cover more ground?

No it wasn’t hard, I made a list of my favorite female singers from the 80s, and then chose the songs. As I mentioned I know all those songs by heart, so it went really fast. The only problem was to limit myself to 10-11 songs, as I had to keep in mind that it’s going to be released on vinyl. And Part 2, who knows, if people will like this first one, why not? Time will tell!

A thought that ran through my mind. Marketing wise it was a great decision to release a special kind of tribute as your debut album. On the other hand, you have been quite a remarkable songwriter in Crystal Viper. Therefore I ask, didn’t it itch, even for a bit, to perhaps leave the tribute album as a sort of a double, or bonus album, in favor of original material for your first record?

There was no marketing strategy here. In fact, when I was working on “Metal Queens”, I didn’t even know who will release it. We finished the album, we finished the artwork, and then we presented it to our friends at Listenable Records, as they did an amazing job with the new Crystal Viper album, “The Cult”. They loved the idea, and from one word to another, the album is now coming out under their banner – and I’m very happy about it. And a solo album with an original material, oh yes, it will happen for sure!

Your partners in crime from Crystal Viper, Cederick Forsberg and Eric Juris, helped you make “Metal Queens” into one of the mightiest efforts to make the 80s come alive. Was it obvious for you to have them onboard with you? Was there a debate of perhaps issuing a multi-musicians lineup for this one record?

Cederick and Eric are incredibly talented musicians, they are professionals. Except that we are friends, we understand each other without words, and they are serious in what they do, so working with them means that everything will be done on time, and will be done perfectly. There is this saying, that you don’t change the winning team, right? So when I started planning “Metal Queens” I wasn’t really thinking about doing it with anyone else - Eric and Ced were my first choice. And the multi-musicians line up could work against the entire thing, as then the album wouldn’t be that consistent.

I believe that some of the greatest achievements of the record are the arrangements of the songs, taking on the classics and giving them an extension cord into the modern world, yet while keeping their authentic vibe. Take the Chastain cover “Light In The Dark” that is one of the reasons why this overall album is so powerful. What is your take on that?

That was part of the plan: to keep the arrangements in their original shape, but to make sure the album won’t sound outdated.

Talking about “Light In the Dark”, you did an amazing duet with Harry Conklin, which came like a glove to take on the male vocalist role. What is your viewpoint on how this collaboration was made in this song?

I think Harry’s voice fits this song very well, both of his bands, Jag Panzer and Titan Force, have this touch of progressive metal, just like Chastain. So it was like a natural match.

Another question that might not come as a shocker, and I am sure that you cherish every moment of making each of the tunes, yet I have to know, after you suffocated this record with the number of listens, I know I did, which of the end results did you enjoy more?

I don’t have one favorite song on it if that’s what you want to ask. The entire thing is very fresh, and in fact it doesn’t happen that I record something, and then listen to it again and again. I like all those songs equally.

Did you have the chance to present the songs to some of the original vocalists, those that are still with us? If so, what were their reactions?

Yes, I keep in touch with some of those vocalists I covered, and so is my producer, so some of them heard these recordings. So far all of them liked them and I got some very nice and encouraging messages and comments.

I have the feeling that it would be only a matter of time before you will take the Marta Gabriel moniker to the stage. What are your plans for the remainder of this year? How does this solo band sit with Crystal Viper, even though it shares members?

Yes, to my surprise I already got few offers to play live shows with this material. It’s too early to say when and what will happen, as the situation with live shows is changing all the time… But I would say that Crystal Viper is a priority, we really want to play proper tour to promote “The Cult” first, and then we will see.

What are the plans for the next record? Perhaps this time around a set of originals or yet another tribute album? Where do you stand on this?

 “Metal Queens” didn’t come out yet, and the new Crystal Viper album “The Cult” is still hot, it came out just few months ago. So I didn’t really think about next album yet. I really want to play the live shows, I can’t wait to be on stage again!

Marta, you made the 80s come alive through “Metal Queens”, no doubt an 80s bash right in one’s face. Surely, female vocalists starting out should heed your call through this record. All the best and thank you. Cheers.

Thank you, I’m really glad you like it, and if you think it could inspire some younger female vocalists, then it would be absolutely amazing. Thank you for your support!


 



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