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Isabelle Croft: “For me, the goal in music is about to inspire, to give energy, to give everything and all my emotions I have, and it is really about to make something good for people.”

Interview with Isabelle Croft from Flame or Redemption
by Thomas Kumke at 20 March 2021, 4:52 AM

Isabelle Croft is a French vocalist who founded the German melodic Death Metal band Flame or Redemption in 2018. The band had a successful start to their career until the pandemic and are currently working on their debut album. Metal Temple writer Thomas Kumke was fortunate to speak to Isabelle about her development to a Metal vocalist, her band Flame or Redemption, and about social distancing shows.

Hello Isabelle, it is an honour to have you here and to perform an interview with you today for the Metal Temple online magazine. First of all I hope you had a great start in 2021, and you and your family are safe.

Isabelle: Yes they are. First of all, thank you for so much for the invitation. It is a pleasure to be here today. Fortunately, I am healthy and my family as well. In my case, I live in Germany but I am French and that means, I was not able to see my family at all last year. At the end of 2020/beginning 2021, I traveled to France and saw my grandma. I tried to help my grandma to get the vaccine since she is too old to manage that alone. So it is definitely a change for anybody, but I am somebody who definitely is oriented to a positive mind and always try to see the best and to keep going.

Let's first talk about you. You are a Metal vocalist. When did you start singing and how did you come to Metal?

Isabelle: Long story! I was always singing. I began to do music at the age of six. My mother always sang and she is a soprano. She was really teaching me a lot and we definitely loved to do music together, it was actually the first thing. Then, when I started like everybody to listen to the radio in France, I was more with French songs, Pop, and Rock, something really completely different. I loved Rap and R&B in my early age. So I definitely did not begin with Heavy Metal. It was interesting because I discovered first of all bands like Linkin Park and Venice and so on. Then I noticed that this is more something that I want to listen to and I was definitely singing these songs. After my time as a student, I moved to Germany and the story with Metal began. First of all, I was off to Cologne but I did not stay long and then came back to Paris. The real move to Germany was to Berlin where I stayed for 8 years. In Berlin I tried to figure out how I can make my music. I was looking for different bands and I had five bands every day, then I tried another band and one band did Rock, the other did Hard Rock, the other did Pop, so I just tried everything and then I noticed that I need to move, I wanted to sing high and low and Metal was just a perfect match for me. As I began in this direction, then the music became harder and harder every year. Then I learned to growl and now I think the loop is closed.

Are you trained in playing an instrument as part of your musical education?

Isabelle: Yes, I learned instruments, first I learned to play flute and I did it three long years. I can play the small ones, the big ones, all kind of flutes. Later I learned to play guitar and then I learned to play piano. Currently I compose a lot with the piano due to the coronavirus and the lockdown. I am not able to see my band and we are not able to rehearse together, so I really focus on playing and singing with a piano that they can also go into the music because it is not an option to stop.

Beside your classical vocal education you are also trained as a guttural vocalist. What did attract you to look into the extreme vocal genre?

Isabelle: There are two reasons. First of all as I founded my first band in Berlin, I was looking for Metal musicians because I knew already that this is where I wanted to go. At this point in time, I did not really find this kind of people I wanted to and we did Hardrock. I was singing high and low and somehow I thought okay, that is nice, but It is always the same and I was looking for a another challenge with the voice. As in a lot of other Metal bands, they have guttural vocals and I thought that could be cool to have the combination of clean and guttural vocals. The second reason was that I had also the issue with the band that we were five people and it was always a challenge to find an appointment for everybody being available. If I had to find a growler who will be sixth person, it would be even a greater challenge. So it would be more convenient if I could do that and then I learned it. At first I tried it myself but it did not fit really well. I had the feeling that it will not go so far without damaging my voice and then I learned it.

When I talk to vocalists, they tell me that you have to learn it professionally, otherwise you are at risk of damaging your voice…

Isabelle: Yes, let us say there are two schools: there is the self-made school and those who learned it. For example, Angela Gossow from Arch Enemy learned it herself. She just tried a lot of different stuff and figured out where she has pain and where she does not have, and developed it by caring and observing what happened with this or that movement. This is not something super easy and it takes a lot of time. There are also people who never did that correctly and then in the middle of the tour their voice need three days to get the sound again. At some point they have to learn it correctly. So for me, I already knew what it is to break my voice and that is why I also learned a lot by myself on this organ. I knew that I have to learn it and I do not like waiting. When I have decided something, it has to happen fast. So I did not want to try myself for 10 years with that. It was not easy to find somebody who could teach because there are not so many people who can really teach it, because many just do it without being trained. I was looking everywhere in Germany when I was in Munich. I just asked everybody on Facebook, really everybody that I thought who can help me to find a teacher. It was really interesting, because people recommended persons or they said I can do it and other people wrote me afterwards privately like: please do not take a course with this person. I thought okay if you get private messages like that, you have to think about it. I mean, in the meantime I know it because today I teach it as well. If you work with somebody who teaches it not correctly that is dramatic because you learn movement to your body and you automatically memorize it. If you do not memorize it correctly, then you will definitely have pain at some point, sooner or later. I was lucky that one of my sisters lives in New York and she married at the time. So I got an invitation for the wedding and I thought, okay, I fly to America and I will not only stay for two days, I would stay for one week. However, it was in April and the weather was not so good. What could I do there? Seriously, it was annoying and I was not really motivated going there, but surely I would go for the wedding of my sister. So I thought about these messages on Facebook and everybody had recommended me to learn growling with the DVD “The Zen Of Screaming” by Melissa Cross. I bought the DVD and I already learned a bit with it. But it was difficult learning it from a video when you never did growling before. At the time of the wedding, I did not really think about this DVD, but I thought okay, I am in New York and maybe I can find somebody who can teach me screaming there. Who knows? It is America and everything is possible. Yeah. I might live the American dream. So I searched in Google and I found Melissa Cross, screaming teacher, New York. That is it. I wrote to Melissa Cross and told her that I would be in New York next week and I would like to have a session with her if she has time. I thought it is too short notice, but she had time. So I was probably very lucky and it just matched. It was my first lesson and after this first lesson, I did learn it myself and also with my band here. I was really super motivated and at the beginning of my growls and screams, the band loved it and if they love it, I should be not so bad, so I can go further.

You went to Munich in 2018 and founded German melodic Death Metal band Flame Or Redemption. How does it work going into a new city and forming a new band?

Isabelle: I moved to Munich as a vocalist. I was first hoping that I can find a band where everything is already there and I just have to sing. It did not work like that. I exactly knew which direction I wanted for the music and it was so precise that I did not find a project where it was like I wanted to. For some bands my ideas were too heavy and then there is also the French factor with the accent. Those things come actually quite often but this is just wrong believe. However, that is a limitation that people can have in their mind. I had cool contacts with musicians but it did not match. So I said okay, once again, I have to form a band, because it seems that it is the only way it works with me. I always try to do something and if I think this does not work, then I slightly change things and test what could work. For me definitely, it always worked that I form a band, but it was actually not my intention at the beginning. It is not really easy because this is the longest way to start: you have to do everything, you have to recruit people, you have to see that the people match together and so on. I really care about that everybody feel good and can express themselves in the band. I had a difficult time because the first try was not the right one but the second try, when I got the first musician then everybody stayed immediately. When you recruit people, sometimes they stay two weeks only and then next one come in. This was just amazing that people stayed.

You had clear idea about the direction and the sound of the band. Did this develop further when you started working together, did you have to adjust?

Isabelle: Right now we play actually melodic Death Metal, at least this is how people describe it. I mean I did not say hey, I want to play melodic Death Metal. I just wanted to have growling vocals and high notes, I wanted to have strong moments, super melodic moments where everything is romantic, and moments where everything is crazy. This was my description. I was not like: I want Metalcore or Death Metal or whatever. I am a vocalist and I get the emotions with the music and then I give the emotions to the people. So I am the connection between the people and the music. That is why everything is about feelings and emotions. It has to feel right for me, for everybody in the band and everybody has to agree about the result. The second thing is that since the start of the band and right now, everybody has developed since we came together and the direction of the band also developed with the time and today we are heavier than at the beginning.

In Flame Or Redemption you use both, guttural and clean vocals. There are just very few bands which use both with one vocalist and it gives you a bit of uniqueness…

Isabelle: That is Possible. I do not compare myself in any way with other bands. I have three ways of singing: I have the growls and the screams, or everything what is guttural, I have clean vocals and then I also have a super high voice so I also can sing opera. I do not want to sound like Nightwish but I like to have some few moments, a few seconds in a song where there are emotions and combine it all and really have everything in one song.

Is this difficult to compose?

Isabelle: No, not for me. Actually, when I listen to a melody I can improve it and I have somehow ideas. I think about what could fit best and try things, but I did classical vocals, clean vocals, or growling exactly on the same melody; it just depends on me and what is the song about: what do I want to explain and what is the lyrical theme. So it is not just about to change every two seconds, but it is about the story. If it fits for a song that higher notes would be cool then it is fine, but if it comes every single time, then it is too often. It definitely has to be harmonious and not to be something where you have this feeling at the end of the album that every song is exactly the same. Sometimes it is more growling and sometimes it is more clean vocals, it depends really on the song.

Flame Or Redemption is one of the very rare bands with bilingual vocals (ie, English and French). What was the idea behind this and what are the reactions to that?

Isabelle: Okay, I want to come back shortly to the first band I had in Berlin and there I was only singing in French. It was a Hard Rock band, but people came to the concert and it was never ever a topic for people. At this point of time I decided to sing in French because this is where I come from and where all my emotions are. Now, with Flame or Redemption I actually have some ideas in English and when I have some ideas in English with the music, the lyrics have to be in English. If it is comes in French then it has to be in French. Sometimes ideas come in both languages, it has just to feel right. It is all about emotions. I also have to say that at the beginning and could not speak any other language than French. Whenever I had listened to music in English or any other language that I could not speak and could not understand, I listened to these songs anyway because I love the melodies. So for me, if the melody is right then I also can sing the song and then try to understand the lyrics. First of all it has to feel right in the emotions.

You are going to release the single “Guardian Angel”. I think you can listen to it already on YouTube. What was the response so far?

Isabelle: The official release will be next month. The response so far is actually good. It is very interesting that people begin now to know the lyrics of the song. We have a nice shop where people can buy merchandise, and for Black Friday we did some special offer with the lyrics. People ordered that and were super happy to have the lyrics. After a while we got good response on the lyrics. So it seems to me that the lyrics touched the people. I mean, if people begin to care about the lyrics then it is a good sign that people also like the melody.

Flame Or Redemption had a great start as a band. You took part in the SPH Music Contest in Germany. You won the first price in the first round, the second price in the city final, the first price in the regional final, and finally the third price in the German semi-final in February 2020. And then came COVID-19…..What might have been in 2020 if Covid-19 did not stop you? What were the plans?

Isabelle: We had actually a super great festival where we were invited and we were super excited to have the possibility to play with huge bands. It was just amazing and it never happened. It did not happen yet! But I still hope that that we can make it next year.

I can imagine it is very difficult especially for a young and ambitious band to survive under these circumstances. How did you cope with the pandemic?

Isabelle: Fortunately, everybody of us has a job beside the band, otherwise it would be not possible to survive. Actually, I am the only one who is not employed. So I have my own music business and I really do everything that I can really live from it. The others do actually not live from the music, at least not yet. Now it is a really good moment to exactly think about what is really important and where I have to have the focus on. For me, the music is number one, there is nothing else that is more important to me. That is the reason why I put so much energy in my Instagram and on Facebook. I really write every single day to fans and answer every single message that I get, because this is the only link to my fans that I have right now. I really enjoy to have this contact with people. I guess I would not have so much contact with people if the pandemic did not happen. So, I have fans now from Brazil, the US, Finland, and Italy, it is just amazing. Without COVID, I would probably not have so many fans on social media.

Flame Or Redemption performed live during the pandemic last summer in one of these social distancing shows? How did you like this and how was the atmosphere?

Isabelle: It was interesting. We had two shows during the pandemic, the first was actually without anybody, just with the camera, the sound engineer, the technicians and the band. It did not feel good, because there was no energy there. In the social distancing concert, there were even almost 200 people there sitting and head-banging.

Just to explain how those social distancing shows worked. Fans had to sit at tables with 8 or 10 people and the tables were distanced. There were something like 20 tables and fans were supposed to remain seated…

Isabelle: Yes, they had to sit and not to stand up. So it was not possible to dance or to head-bang or whatever. They had to stay at the table and keep the distances. But people were just head-banging all the time at their tables while sitting. The coolest thing for me was that the energy was there and even if the people were not jumping, there was an energy, something that is not really possible to describe. I noticed the difference between the show before with the camera and the show after even if just 200 people were sitting there. All the fans were super happy, and we were also super happy because it was one of the rare concerts at this point of time with merchandise, and fans just bought everything. I saw that people really wanted to support us, because we did not get any money for the show since the organizers did not have any money with so few people there. So, nobody had money. It was a really great feeling that the people really enjoyed, wanted to support us and came to speak to us. I mean, this is also what I have on the social media. People want to speak to me and I need those people as well as they need me. This is a great exchange.

There were a few social distancing events last year. Jinjer did a few shows. There were also drive-in shows. Do you think this might be a working model for the near future?

Isabelle: I have no clue. Nobody knows anything, so not even the government knows it. It is difficult to answer, but I would be happy if the social distancing concerts could start again. It would be good start and, at the end of March, there is some hope and that venues might reopen in Germany. I really hope that it happens, but it just depends on the numbers of infected people. There is definitely the will that it happens, but we cannot influence it except staying home and to have as few contacts as possible. I think it also depends on the number of people who are vaccinated. If I understand it correctly, we probably will have to have a COVID test before the concert. Whatever happens, the situation before and after Corona will not be completely the same.

Now I have a challenge for both of us. I give you a few keywords and I want you to elaborate on that. I will have follow up questions for some keywords and we will talk about a few topics. Let us start with Arch Enemy…

Isabelle: I admire them, this is really a cool band and they do a really great job. I saw a show with them two years ago. Amazing. I like it. They are great artists, everybody, not just Alissa. Amazing band, amazing story, amazing management. Two amazing vocalists!

Cannibal Corpse….

Isabelle: Extreme and hard.

Jinjer….

Isabelle: Green! I was to the social distancing show of Jinjer last year in Munich. It was the second or the third time that I saw them on stage. Impressive! There are not so many musicians who do such a great job, they are super present online and did a lot of live shows during the last years.

Do you have any role models as a vocalist? Who inspires you?

Isabelle: I would not say that I am inspired by somebody because inspiration is more about the emotions and the feelings once again. I have a lot of vocalists that I admire. Actually my inspiration, if I should use the word inspiration, comes from the melodies. So I listen more to Within Temptation, Delain, or Nightwish, but it is not what I want to do. I like listening to this. I also like vocalists of other genres, they also do a great job for example Christina Aguilera. She has such a voice, it is just amazing. Even if she does not growl, she also has this torsion in the voice for some expression. I love that, because it gives a lot of emotion to the people. She has nothing to do with Metal but this is just about vocalists and I love beautiful voices. In such case I do not care about the genre, this is not important to me.

The next topic. France…

Isabelle: Food! Good food! I can tell you it is not a myth, it is real. Last year I was in Germany for over a year and I could not go back to France. When I went back December last year, finally I realized what I love the French food and I missed it. I did not miss it when I did not have it and it was not under my nose, but when I am there, I love the bakeries. Also, when I am in the supermarket, I buy everything.

You were born and raised in France. Do you still go often to France?

Isabelle: At the moment it is quite complicated with traveling, tests, and all that, so I do not go often, but in general I just had planned to stay for Christmas at my parents. Eventually during Christmas time I decided that I also will go to my grandma. It was planned that I stay three or four days and I just stayed three weeks. It just felt right at this point because of the complications with the travelling. I think if I plan to go in the future, I will stay probably longer each time.

Do you miss France since you live in Germany?

Isabelle: Actually I did not have this feeling until last year, but it is not about the country. I do not miss a country and I do not miss a city. When I moved from Berlin to Munich, a lot of people from Berlin asked me when I would come back, they also asked which city I prefer and I thought this is not my topic. I miss people, but not a city or a country. I miss my family and my friends, but I could actually live everywhere.

Berlin…

Isabelle: Fernsehturm! So the television tower! I was up there once. I was there after I lived three years in Berlin because friends visited me and I made a touristic tour with them. It is always the same when I live somewhere, I do not really visit the touristic places until somebody come to visit me.

Munich…

Isabelle: The food is also good there. For me this is the best region for food in Germany. Munich is a green city, it has the food, and the mountains are close. I also think, this is a great region for Metal. Before I moved, I checked out the Metal scene in the area because I would not move without a Metal scene. I was really super positively surprised. This atmosphere here in the concerts is super cool. I mean, there are locations who make the Metal life really cool.

You moved to Munich in 2018. Do you consider it already as your home?

Isabelle: That is a good question! What is home? For me home is where your heart is or where the people who you love are, but the people I love are everywhere. So my heart is divided. I think if you had asked me this question a few years ago, I would have said Germany. Now after all the reflection with the coronavirus and all that what happened, I have to say there is both in my heart, there is Germany and there is France. When I am in France, I just speak about Germany all the time. When I am in Germany I speak about France all the time. So it may be annoying for people but actually it just shows me that I am both, French and German.

The last topic. Favorite music album…

Isabelle: It always depends on the year, on the month, of the feelings. I would say the first album that I love is super old but it is “Fallen” by Evanescence. It was the breakthrough for me. It definitely was the beginning of my travel to Metal, even if it is not really Metal, but it opened the doors to my actual music career. Definitely. I actually did not tell it before but when I listen to Metal, and I listen permanently to Metal, I prefer male vocals. When I was in the car travelling to France and back, it was a long journey and I listened to really everything. I just could not listen to those female voices and all this melodic stuff that I loved before. I started then playing Breaking Benjamin, Trivium, and Bullet For My Valentine, and actually I loved singing on it.

Favorite movie…

Isabelle: Favorite movie? No, we will just change this to favorite video game. Tomb Raider, I am actually fan of Tomb Raider. I thought about video games because when I watch TV to relax, then I just watch good action movies and Tom Ryder is all about action. I like action movies.

Favorite food and drink…

Isabelle: It depends on the mood and on the location. For example, at home I would probably drink wine when I eat something. When I am at a show, then I would drink beer, but I always begin with a Whisky Cola. This is like a tradition. I always begin a concert with a Whisky Cola when I am part of the audience. When I participate before I go on stage, it depends on the mood, but actually I drink water first. I also like drinking Whisky now and then, just a small glass and my favorite Whisky is Laphroaig, but I would never put Cola into it. Favorite food is difficult. I know it will probably be completely unfair for the rest of this world, but I love when there is a lot of fat. So as I am here in Munich, I like Schweinshaxe. I prefer when the fat is crusty.

Favorite country for holiday…

Isabelle: I cannot reveal it because this is probably where I will make a video surprise the next month. So it is a secret. I am actually not really a traveler, at least I will not describe me like that. When I go somewhere, it is more because I have a goal. So that is the reason why it was nonsense to me to fly to New York just for a wedding, I need a goal for the music or I need to experiment when I am somewhere. Most of the time when I travel it is because I had to but I really enjoyed it at the end. I need to have something that drives me. I would not go to holiday to Italy if I did not know that I meet my sister there.

When fans finish with their daily work, they listen to music or go to shows. What do musicians do when they finish their work? What do you do in your spare time?

Isabelle: Music and I are actually one thing, you cannot dissociate this. In my spare time I am singing and listening to music. I actually love learning new things, I like reading books, I go to seminars and meet people there, I exchange a lot, and I do a lot for my personal development. That is my second passion. I do get coached and I do also coach people, I love to help people. For me, the goal in music is about to inspire, to give energy, to give everything and all my emotions I have, and it is really about to make something good for people. Holiday is for me like a foreign word because does not give me any fulfillment. The important thing with this fulfillment is how I can do something for this world. I am travelling a lot to get information to make further personal development and to learn about myself to experiment. To find out about the connection between body and mind, how can I make the best out of it, and how can I improve in order that I can help others. This is really the second passion beside music and for me it is completely connected. I do all the time some things, there is not a day where I have breaks. When I do something completely different to recharge my batteries, then I go to the nature where it is completely calm, no noise, where I can really have peace.

So then Munich is a good place for you. Where in France did you grow up?

Isabelle: I was born in Paris and I grew up in the south of Paris, fortunately with lots of greens and forests around. My father is from Brittany and my mother is more from the South of France, but Brittany is where I actually feel more connected to. We have been to the Sea often and this is for me a peaceful place.

Let's go back to Flame or Redemption. What are the plans regarding new music and a full-length album?

Isabelle: Right now we are recording songs. We will first release them as singles. We will have two singles to come out in a few months with a video release. Currently we are not able to meet together due to the pandemic. It is really difficult for the songwriting to go further. Fortunately, last year between the two lockdowns we had a really super productive rehearsals. Whenever we can go ahead, we will exactly know what we have to work on. We also faced the challenge that, shortly before the pandemic, one of the guitarists did not have time for the band anymore and it was really difficult to find a new guitarist during that period. After a month, we found somebody and he is now in the band, but rehearsals are not allowed. So it is a bit weird situation, we are trying to onboard him online via Zoom. Unfortunately, online rehearsals are not possible for everybody in the band, because not everyone has this digital perspective and it does not make sense for some of the band members to do that. So I am flexible and I have everything for it. The first video release will be a lyric video and the second one is a live video from the social distancing concert. We will have two singles to come out in a few months with a video release. After that, we can hope to have a full-length album where the singles are also in it.

Isabelle, it was a great honor to perform this interview with you for Metal Temple magazine. I really enjoyed it talking to you and I am looking forward to new music of Flame or Redemption. It has been a great story so far and hopefully it continues. Thank you very much.

Isabelle: Thank you so much for your time and to have this great discussion. It was really interesting.



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Edited 03 August 2021
 

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