Stephen Mikulic and Lee Tassaker - Lycanthia - Back
Interviewer: Cameron Edney - http://insideout666.mysite.freeserve.com

Being Australia Day today it seemed fitting to publish an interview on a great Australian metal band, Lycanthia. The band that formed in 1996 has battled line-up changes & has hammered on despite what I like to call a quite period in Australian metal. Now with a rock & metal scene blooming once again Lycanthia are one of the bands right at the top of the list! Lycanthia are not your average metal band, we are not talking about four guys with long hair thrashing out. Lycanthia has six members; Lee, Stephen, Sabine, Giovanni, James & Samantha and what makes Lycanthia so unique is that for a metal band they don't just have a keyboardist they also have a violinist which really takes Lycanthia to a place where many metal bands never dare to tread. Lycanthia's 1999 album ‘Myriad’ was well received by the critics and fans alike and seen the band performing to even larger audiences. Having six creative forces in the band Lycanthia deliver power and intensity with every performance. I had the pleasure of catching up with both Lee & Stephen earlier this month to talk about the Australian metal scene, writing and recording, being on the road & much more.

Metal Fanatix: Hi Guys, it’s great to finally catch up to do the interview, thanks for putting some time aside for our readers, how did you see in 2006?

Stephen Mikulic: I went to a few clubs in Sydney for NYE & did a gig with Lycanthia the following weekend which was great. Lee & a few other members of Lycanthia went on a camping trip for NYE.

Metal Fanatix: Let’s start back at the beginning, for those who don’t know, tell us how Lycanthia formed?

Lee Tassaker: Well, Lycanthia formed in 1996. We released the first demo in 1997; followed up by our first CD entitled ‘Myriad” 1999. We did a promotional single ‘Inferno’ 2001 as well as tracks featured on compilation albums. The band has had various line-up changes which has overtime built the strong unit we are today. Lycanthia has been gigging consistently in Australia for the past year with a release due shortly.

Stephen Mikulic: As for myself, after having a chat with Lycanthia guitarist Giovanni at the Rock Machina Metal festival in Spain 2002, I decided I would audition when I got back to Sydney.

Metal Fanatix: Does it annoy you that people are constantly trying to put bands into specific genres whether it’s doom, black or gothic metal to name a few?

Stephen Mikulic: It can be annoying as people who see us play often say they were quite pleased at our performance; they expected us to be not to their liking so this can prevent us from receiving the exposure we deserve.

Metal Fanatix: I know you guys have spent the last year or so really trying to break into the international market as well as build up a fan base here at home. For those who have never heard Lycanthia, how would you describe the band musically?

Lee Tassaker: In my opinion, it’s dark, it’s aggressive, it’s atmospheric & it’s doom/death metal. A blend of metal, classical, gothic & ambient styles.

Metal Fanatix: To become a star these days it seems the only way to make it would be to go on reality music shows like Idol & Rock Star, what do you think about the mass wave of reality shows looking for so called “Talent” & do you watch any of them?

Lee Tassaker: I hate those shows & have nothing to do with them. It seems to be more about making “money” than about finding “talent” to me.

Stephen Mikulic: I have briefly watched some of them. It is a good way for some vocalists to get some exposure but the shows are basically churning out flavor of the month one hit wonders. As Lee said, it’s more about the TV show itself & TV ratings than the actual artist they are looking for.

Metal Fanatix: Mandy decided to leave the band almost a year ago now & Sabine joined the ranks. Can you tell us a little about her background?

Lee Tassaker: Sabine has been with us a little over six months now. She was previously in a band overseas called Kimaera. About a year after she moved to Australia she answered our ad for a keyboardist and/or female vocalist. She was going to join the band as a vocalist only but decided to learn the keyboard, which we were more than glad for. It’s hard enough trying to fit the six of us up on stage let alone seven.

Stephen Mikulic: What made our decision easier was that she is exactly what Lycanthia were looking for in regards to her influences & talent.

Metal Fanatix: Something that really sets Lycanthia apart from the other metal bands on the scene is that there are six members as you just mentioned Lee, one of which is playing violin. Guess you could say many traditional metal fans would find the use of a violin, even the cello & flute that you guys were using as a little strange. When you guys put the band together did you want to incorporate violins, flutes etc. into your music or was that something you thought about later on?

Lee Tassaker: No, it was intentional right from the start. We used to listen to albums where sections of the music would have classical instruments or a different vocal part playing over it. We wanted to hear music where these elements were incorporated through the entire album. Also these elements in a lot of cases have been the reason for buying the album in the first place only to go see the band live & find that they can’t reproduce those elements in their live show, they just left them out. These days it’s better, there are a lot of bands including all these elements & performing them both on recordings & live.

Stephen Mikulic: Some traditional Metallers still find females & keyboards in a Metal band to be strange as well but it adds a different dimension to metal. All of us play instruments on stage & half the band sings so when you see us expect to experience a full range of emotions in sound.

Metal Fanatix: You guys are currently writing & recording new material to follow up ‘Myriad’. Can we expect the new CD to head in the same direction as ‘Myriad’ or has adding Sabine to the band taken Lycanthia down a new path?

Lee Tassaker: Sabine’s voice is a lot more confident & powerful and yes this will enrich our sound. We have all gone through changes musically over the years. Our new release will show greater maturity, creativity & originality.

Stephen Mikulic: Naturally it will sound different as the band is very different to the Myriad line-up but the sound of Lycanthia remains along the same lines.

Metal Fanatix: Many bands have their own ways of writing, how does the process work for you guys, does the music come first or the lyrics? Do you all get together for writing sessions?

Lee Tassaker: Almost always the music is written first but with vocal lines or lyric concepts in mind. We all get together once a week outside of rehearsals to work on new material. Someone will create an idea at home. We bring our ideas from home & work on them.

Stephen Mikulic: As Lee said we do get together & from my experiences, one of us will come up with a song structure & everyone will add to it.

Metal Fanatix: Has a release date been set for the new CD yet?

Lee Tassaker: Hopefully it should be released around March 2006 if all goes to plan.

Metal Fanatix: The Australian Metal scene has gotten bigger & better than ever before over the last few years. Besides Lycanthia what other Australian bands should we be on the look for?

Lee Tassaker: Some of my favorite Australian bands include, The Eternal, Virgin Black, Transcending Mortality, Gospel of the Horns, Long Voyage Back, Chalice, Mournful Congregation, Destroyer 666, Disembowelment (RIP) & Paramecium.

Stephen Mikulic: One of my favorite new bands is Transcending Mortality.

Metal Fanatix: What do you recall from the first show you guys played together?

Lee Tassaker: Two days before we were to play our first gig I burnt my hand badly enough that I could not play my bass; we managed to get a friend of ours to learn our set in that short time. I just performed my vocal parts. Other than that we were very happy with the response we received.

Stephen Mikulic: My first show with the band was great, we supported Germany's Mystic Circle & a lot of people were very happy with the new line-up & performance.

Metal Fanatix: What do you think has been the most valuable lesson you have learnt thus far in this business?

Lee Tassaker: Practice & learn to keep time or you are going to suck from the start.

Stephen Mikulic: Being in a band takes a lot of commitment, more than what most people think.

Metal Fanatix: Do you do anything specific to warm up before hitting the stage?

Lee Tassaker: Not usually, we warm up our vocals before we play. If we get the opportunity for a sound check we get to all warm up a little there.

Stephen Mikulic: I make sure I am in the right frame of mind, I want to give the audience 100% so I have to block out any feelings of how bad my day/week may have been & for the moment of time that I am on stage the audience is all that matters.

Metal Fanatix: What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

Lee Tassaker: Listen to music, some of us have musical projects besides Lycanthia, read, spend time with friends, go to gigs, think & discuss, art, the list goes on.

Stephen Mikulic: Physical exercise, driving my car, listening to music, catching up with friends when I can, going to gigs/clubs, watching TV, surfing the net, etc.

Metal Fanatix: Lee, tell us something about the other members of the band that we might not know?

Stephen Mikulic: There is nothing too unusual about any of the members, we are all good friends & I think that is what keeps us together.

Metal Fanatix: In your honest opinion what do you think about the direction that hard rock & metal music has taken over the last few years?

Lee Tassaker: I don’t really like newer styles of Metal. I have found that Doom bands have become a lot more creative & are opening themselves up to different possibilities. I also enjoy later works from bands such as Ulver or Arcturus.

Stephen Mikulic: I have noticed Metal changing into Nu-Metal, etc. which is ok but not really my thing. Now I am noticing that many new fans to Metal are getting into the older stuff & forming bands along the same lines which are great to see.

Metal Fanatix: What bands have you been listening to over the holidays?

Lee Tassaker: My Dying Bride, Primordial, Candlemass, Metallica, Bolt Thrower, Pestilence, Kreator, Disembowelment, Iron Maiden. This list could go on for a long time [laughs].

Stephen Mikulic: I listen to a lot of Metal radio to keep up with the new stuff but find myself getting into some older stuff as well, as for these holidays: Savatage, Megadeth, Queensryche & Opeth.

Metal Fanatix: Which record/song would define you to a complete stranger?

Lee Tassaker: Foreplay, With a Tree Shredder.

Stephen Mikulic: Oh, Tough question! You could find my personality amongst Queensryche's Operation Mindcrime & Opeth's Still Life albums maybe?

Metal Fanatix: What advice would you give to other bands trying to break into the business?

Lee Tassaker: You need to practice your instrument at rehearsals & at home. You need to keep your band close; you all need to be friends. Lycanthia spend a lot of time together outside the band. Make as many contacts as you can in Australia & overseas, eg bands, webzines, labels, etc.

Stephen Mikulic: Play what you want to play & sound the way you want to sound, not how others want you to sound & stay committed.

Metal Fanatix: If you could put a band together consisting of musicians past and/or present who would they be & what would you call the band?

Lee Tassaker: Lee-bass & vocals, Sabine-keyboard & vocals, Stephen-guitar, Giovanni-Guitar, James-drums & Samantha-violin & backing vocals. Call it Lycanthia.

Stephen Mikulic: [laughs] Good call!

Metal Fanatix: [laughs] Stephen you have recently been endorsed; can you tell us about that?

Stephen Mikulic: Sure, I've been endorsed by DSL Straps; they make the finest quality guitar & bass straps I have ever seen in a wide range of leathers in many different colors& textures. They also come in different widths & lengths. Check them out at http://www.dslstraps.com.au

Metal Fanatix: Awesome I will do, Guys thanks so much again for taking the time out, it’s been a true pleasure, do you guys have any last words you want to share with our readers?

Lee Tassaker: Thanks for the interview, come check us out at our next show.

Stephen Mikulic: Thanks for taking the time out Cameron, for anyone interested, you can hear our MP3 samples & contact us at the Lycanthia website!

To keep up with all the latest news on Lycanthia, check out the following websites.

http://www.lycanthia.com - Official Lycanthia Site
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Lycanthia - Lycanthia Yahoo Group
http://insideout666.mysite.freeserve.com - Dedicated to 40 years of hard rock & metal music

© Cameron Edney January, February 2006 Not to be re-printed in any form without written permission.