review by Julie Lary
photos: Will Feffer
Grey is one of the most amazing metal bands I've ever heard. What sets them apart from most heavy doom metal bands is their off time drum beats and their way heavy sound with the amazing vocals, with the best part saved for last, they are all ladies. Let me introduce them. Grey is: Guitar & Vocals, Suzanne Morales aka GypsyWitch; Bass, AJ RisCassi aka LunaLoca; Drums, Becca Gherardini aka BitchHammer.
These ladies play hard and loud. It really shows with the equipment that they use. Aside from singing, Suzanne plays an SG through a Laney head and a Marshall head with two cabinets. AJ plays a 1976 Thunderbird bass through a SUNN 300-T head with 4 X 15 SUNN cabinets. Becca plays a Vintage Vista Lite from 1970, red, 5 piece, 24" kick, and she asks if anyone wants to donate a 26"? "I use hammers for sticks." Their other piece of gear is their touring machine they like to call "GREYTANIC" a straight 1989 vista classic monster that was recently stolen and returned to them, but see more about that in the interview below.
All this creates a sound so loud and heavy you might just have hearing damage after seeing them live. I know my ears were ringing after the last time I saw them at El Corazon. They have a new album coming out in August. It's called Sisters of the Wyrd and it's on Kreation Records. It was recorded by Billy Anderson and Brandon Wormwood at Soundhouse, (Feb 5-7, 2008) and Wormwood House (Feb 8-10, 2008). I interviewed Grey and this is what they had to say. AJ fielded the questions.
How long has Grey been a band?
In the current incarnation, Grey has been a band for about a year now when Becca joined. Suzanne and I started playing together again a few years back. We were in a doom metal band called Baba Yaga in the 90s. Then I moved away and when I returned, the two of us started jamming again. Then the last drummer of Baba Yaga, Ty joined up with us to form Grey. We also had Troy Sawnson from ASVA, SUNN 0 playing keyboards with us awhile and Rebekah from Book of Black Earth on second guitar. Ty and Rebekah left the band around the same time. Suzanne and I were looking for a drummer. Becca who was then playing with Madras in San Francisco drove to Seattle with her drums. The three of us really clicked and the current line-up was solidified. I think this is a really good mix.
I notice on your MySpace that you use "band names" or "stage names"? what's that about?
They're names that we call each other that represent our personalities, character...etc. I think they are quite fitting for each of us. We actually use these names in regular conversation with each other.
Is playing metal as females difficult to gain acceptance into the metal scene and taken as serious musicians?
It's gotten much better in the metal scene for women. When Suzanne and I started playing together back in the 90s, there were barely any women going to metal shows let alone playing music. And I think as a band we hold up quite well in this male dominated genre. Also, if anyone wants to talk metal, doom, death, black, rock....each one of us has knowledge about the bands and music. It's not like we jumped on the doom or metal bandwagon in the past few years. We've lived this lifestyle for some time.
What female musicians have/had the biggest impact on you both growing up and now?
For me, Jo Bench from Boltthrower of course. She is brutal. The ladies of 13 as well. In fact, we got permission to cover 13's Wither on our upcoming album. It's a killer song. I also like music like Bjork, the Cranes, Slowdive, and Lorenna McKennitt. Suz and Bec should chime in here.
Becca: My major female musician influences include Mia Zapata, Anne and Nancy Wilson, Janis Joplin, Grace Slick, Nina Simone, Carole king, Patty Smith, Karen Carpenter, Big Mama Thornton, Cheshire Agusta and any other badass women who bring it! "For lifers" playing with passion and heart. there are many women up here in Seattle and down in the Bay Area that wail, they inspire me constantly.
I sense a mysticism and magical quality about your music, do you subscribe to those theories? Mysticism and magic?
Yes, for sure. In this day in age, where we are surrounded by electronics and technology I believe it is very important for us to go back and look to mysticism and magic to add meaning to our lives. Grey is inspired by nature, history, passion, magic, fantasy, faith, art....all things that I feel modern society is lacking. And as for specifically addressing the question about magic, I consider myself pagan and do practice my own brand of magic. I do not subscribe to any specific faction. Being raised Catholic, I do find all religions interesting. Studying and reading about all of these subjects and taking concepts and art from them bring magic into song and lyric.
There are several genres of metal; do you put your music into any category? Like for instance, black metal or what have you?
I always like to say it's heavydoommetal. That's all one word and we're trade marking it so no one steal it....heh.
I know your van and stuff was recently stolen and returned to you, how did that affect you as a band and your view on society as a whole?
We were totally upset when it happened. Luckily none of our gear was in the van. It turns out that some guys just had a joyride and did drugs and then dumped it. We got the van back, nothing missing...and we gained a crack pipe and hatchet. Heh. But it was a really stressful situation. And for these guys to have a joyride for a few days cost us a lot of grief. It did teach us a lesson about leaving gear in the van overnight. That will never happen again.
Do you find you have more female or male fans and which gender fans do you relate more to?
I think we have more women coming to our shows than other bands in this genre because we are women. And I hope this opens up these women to bands they might not have listened to before. But the majority of people are still dudes. The women will take over eventually...heh. I don't think we relate more to one gender than the other. You either dig heavy, downtuned music or you do not.
Do you consider yourselves feminists and if so or if not, why?
If you read our lyrics, there are definitely some feminine viewpoints involved. We're women, so that will come out of course. But I don't think that men cannot relate to what we are saying. I would not say we are feminist, but we want to be judged on an equal playing field with men without losing the fact that we are women. And we are about empowering women to feel the same way...sometimes by looking back and taking inspiration from women who have paved the way in the past.
Where and when can your fans catch the next upcoming Grey shows?
Right now we don't have anything planned. Our next show will be our record release gig which is not booked yet. Earlier this year we recorded with Billy Anderson at the Soundhouse and Wormwood House here in Seattle. The record should be coming out in August on Kreation Records (www. kreationrecords. net). It can also be purchased at Zion's Gate Records in Seattle. It's called Sisters of the Wyrd and will be released on vinyl and CD. We are really proud of this record. It was an excellent experience to record with talented people in such a great studio.
We'd like to thank you for offering us this interview. We'd also like to thank all the people in the PNW doom/metal scene....bands and people who support us.
In grimness....the three grey witches....Sisters of the Wyrd.