Interviewer: Cameron Edney - http://insideout666.mysite.freeserve.com
If you have never heard of To-Mera it
won’t be too long before you will join those of us who are extremely
excited by this fantastic London based five piece. To-Mera who have
only been together for a little over twelve months have already created
a massive buzz within the industry and around the world, their demo
has been praised by all who have heard it and the band have received
fantastic reviews, sparking interest with many of the major labels
in England, Europe and the United States. Zero Tolerance magazine
voted To-Mera best unsigned band of 2005, and magazines such as Metal
Hammer were banging on door’s to get an interview with To-Mera
who are becoming the hottest new band on the metal scene. Fronted
and formed by bass player Lee Barrett and the beautiful and amazingly
talented Hungarian born Julie Kiss, To-Mera are in a category all
of their own. The band recently signed a worldwide recording deal
with Candlelight Records and recently began work on their debut album
‘Transcendental’ with producer Brett Caldas-Lima, which
is set to be released in late September. I caught up with Julie only
days after she had finished laying down the vocals in the studio to
talk about the sessions and a few of the new tracks. We also spoke
about Julie’s childhood, To-Mera’s formation and more,
Metal Fanatix: Hi Julie, how's things?
Julie Kiss: Hello! Not too bad thank
you. I just finished my vocal bits so I am feeling quite relieved
that it is over. I’m not a big fan of studio work but I am really
looking forward to hearing the final results!
Metal Fanatix: I want to thank you for
putting some time aside today to speak with us. Let's talk about the
new album you guys are working on right now! How have the sessions
been going thus far?
Julie Kiss: It has been pretty stressful,
as album recordings tend to be I suppose, but I am confident that
it was worth it. Of course we are only halfway there with only the
drums, guitars and vocals recorded but, it is already sounding pretty
good I think. I am really looking forward to hearing the whole thing
together, mixed and mastered etc.
Metal Fanatix: Awesome, I believe there
were complaints from the neighbors during the first couple of days
of recording, have they learnt to accept it yet or are they still
Julie Kiss: [Laughs] Yes they called
the police and whoever they could reach, so the noise level was checked
and well, the limit is pretty high and of course we were nowhere near
that. Still, we have done the insulation of the windows just to keep
everyone happy. Anyway, only the drums, guitars and vocals were recorded
there, which was probably more than enough for them to be fair. So
now we are working in our apartment in London, but things are not
nearly as loud now.
Metal Fanatix: Julie, I believe the
songs are worked around the lyrics that you write! What inspires your
Julie Kiss: The themes of the lyrics
are quite varied actually. Some are philosophical, dealing with the
obscureness of our existence, or the weight of knowing and not knowing
for example, while others are more personal. Mostly however they were
inspired by the works of Lovecraft, Suskind and Radnoti - who was
a Hungarian poet. It's all very dark, tense and emotional stuff, just
as I like it. :)
Metal Fanatix: Can you tell us the name
of the album yet? And what working titles did you have before deciding
on this one?
Julie Kiss: Yes we decided on the name
‘Transcendental’, meaning "mystical", "abstract"
or "outside of nature" referring to the hybrid ness of the
music. The working titles are Traces, then Blood, Dreadful Angel,
Phantoms, Born of Ashes, Parfum, Obscure Oblivion and, oh yes, our
mainly acoustic creation, Realm of Dreams.
Metal Fanatix: Can you tell us what
to expect and if there has been a release date set yet?
Julie Kiss: Well, it is not easy [laughs]
expect an epic-progressive-thrashy-jazzy-death adventure, the release
date is September 11th in Europe and I’m not sure about the
rest of the world yet but it will be around that time.
Metal Fanatix: In a few words can you
tell us the first thing that comes to mind when I mention the following
tracks from the new album:
Parfum: Epic, theatrical masterpiece
with a huge chorus and all the weirdness the lyrics deserve (inspired
by Suskind: Perfume (it's the very special story of a murderer) from
jungle drums to blastbeat bits, a very complex song and my absolute
favorite on the album.
Dreadful Angel: It's a really heavy,
groovy song with menacing and heartfelt acoustic passages, jazzy interludes,
a beautiful violin solo and a really brutal ending.
Born of Ashes: This one is quite special
as most of the song was composed around the vocal melodies which were
done first with the lyrics...it's about trying to find a balance between
getting lost in petty things and driving yourself mad thinking about
Realm of Dreams: A lovely song and the
first one that we recorded the vocals for. Unfortunately for the song,
as when we wanted to listen to it again a few days later we had to
realize that it has magically disappeared from the hard drive and
so we had to record it again which I was really upset about as I was
very happy with the first recording...
Metal Fanatix: Tell us about 'Blood',
this is one track on the new album which you sing in Hungarian I believe?
Was there any special reason you chose this song to sing in your native
Julie Kiss: We agreed a while ago that
it would be really interesting to have a few Hungarian verses here
and there, just to add to the weirdness of the album and also because
I am Hungarian and I felt like it would be a nice touch. The song
ended up sounding a bit more middle-eastern-ish than Hungarian-ish...but
Metal Fanatix: Which song on the new
album would define Julie Kiss to a complete stranger?
Julie Kiss: [Laughs] That's a tricky
one! Parfum probably, not because I am a serial killer obviously [laughs]
but because it's a pretty dark and weird sounding song where you just
never know what comes next!
Metal Fanatix: You guys have had video
crews from Hungarian TV entering the recording studio in the last
week. How much footage do you guys have from the sessions and will
any of it be used for an upcoming DVD release?
Julie Kiss: Well yeah that'd be nice.
We have about half an hour of footage about the drum-, guitar- and
vocal-recording but not the rest unfortunately. They also did an interview
with me and Akos which they will play when the album comes out.
Metal Fanatix: Julie, I'd like to go
back to your past for a moment if you don't mind? Tell me about your
childhood and growing up in Hungary?
Julie Kiss: I had a pretty good childhood
I suppose - despite the fact that my parents got divorced when I was
very small. The Russians left and communism ended when I was about
six so I wasn't too bothered or too much affected by that. Anyway
my grandparents had a huge vineyard near to Lake Balaton where I spent
most of my time. It is most certainly where my love for nature originated.
Metal Fanatix: At what age did you decide
to pursue singing as a professional career?
Julie Kiss: I always used to sing at
school celebrations and that kind of thing but I never really dreamt
of becoming a singer when I was small, I wanted to be a doctor actually
[laughs]. Then when I was about fourteen I decided I would give it
go more seriously. I went to a singing teacher and then I sang in
a Tool type of band for a few months before I got into Without Face
and from then on I just went with the flow. I really enjoyed the concerts
and the whole song writing process so after that it wasn't really
a question for me that this is what I want to do.
Metal Fanatix: Are there any other members
of your family that are in the industry besides yourself?
Julie Kiss: No not really. My sister
plays the piano but only as a hobby, my mother was a nursery teacher
and my dad is a professor of chemistry so no, but everyone in my family
is a big music fan though so I was always encouraged to learn music
and sing and listened to a lot of different types of music from a
very early age.
Metal Fanatix: When you look back on
those earlier performances as the vocalist for Without Face, what
comes to mind?
Julie Kiss: I was really young and unexperienced
when I first got into Without Face so it was not always easy. Still,
I learned a lot while singing there and the tours were a lot of fun...
Metal Fanatix: Can you tell me about
your biggest influences as far as vocalists?
Julie Kiss: When I started singing more
seriously Anneke from the Gathering was a really big influence, although
their new direction is not really my thing. Apart from her I could
mention Tori Amos and oh I don't know! I try to pick up new things
here and there as I go along. I like a lot of different types of singers
so it is hard to say which one is my favorite or who had the biggest
influence on me. I always tried to find my own voice really which
is why I try to come up with the weirdest compositions possible.
Metal Fanatix: For those who don't know
much about you guys, To-Mera formed in 2005 give us a quick run down
on how your paths crossed!
Julie Kiss: It was quite weird actually.
After I left Without Face I wanted to do my own thing but it was really
hard to find the right people and after a few shaky starts I almost
gave up on the whole thing. Then one day I was with Lee [Barrett]
our bass player at Waterloo station in London when Tom [MacLean],
now our guitar player recognized me from Without Face and asked if
I was their singer. I was still quite enraged about the situation
with them so I said "No"...but then quickly added "well,
not anymore". A few weeks later we met again at a Dillinger Escape
Plan show where it turned out that he was a guitar player. He sent
me a tape with some ideas and then we agreed that I would send him
a lyric and he would write a few riffs for it...And this is how Dreadful
Angel was born. Akos [Pinsi], the drummer, I already met in Hungary
and I loved his drumming so it was obvious I wanted to work him with
even though he was based in Hungary. And the final addition to the
band was Hugo [Sheppard], our keyboard player who Tom accidentally
met at a party. We are really lucky to have bumped into him as he
is a fantastic pianist! Well, that was not really a quick run down
but there you go [laughs].
Metal Fanatix: [Laughs] Actually Julie
that is great. Now, you guys have already received so much praise
and recognition from critics and fans around the world. Are you surprised
by how fast things have moved for you?
Julie Kiss: Extremely so! It was all
pretty unbelievable for us to be honest. We just wrote two songs and
decided to try and do a demo, send it to a few people and see what
happens. We expected it would take us at least a few more to get a
recording contract, but everything just happened really fast. We were
contacted by the English and Hungarian Metal Hammer to do interviews
and featured in many other prestigious magazines like Zero Tolerance
and lots of fanzines and webzines. We also got invited to be the headliners
of the second stage of Bloodstock in September which was a real surprise
as lots of bands try to get in to play, so we are really happy with
the way things are going so far. We can only hope people will like
the album just as much as they did the demo!
Metal Fanatix: I’m sure they will.
You guys won the best unsigned band award for 2005 that must have
been a great thrill?
Julie Kiss: Yes the extremely kind readers
of the English Zero Tolerance magazine voted us the best unsigned
band of 2005. I couldn't believe my eyes to be honest. It really was
a great honor. Funny enough in the same issue there was a big article
about us being signed to Candlelight!
Metal Fanatix: As you mentioned you
are now signed to candlelight which is great news, was there any specific
reason you guys went with them?
Julie Kiss: Well we had a few offers
from a couple of other labels but Candlelight's offer was the best
out of all of them. We get a decent recording budget, tour support,
we can make a video and we are confident to be working with a really
trustworthy and enthusiastic team. What more you can wish for?
Metal Fanatix: It sounds like a very
good deal! Are you guys worried that you will be classed or marketed
as another Lacuna Coil or Evanescence? What is it that separates you
from the others?
Julie Kiss: Hmm no not really. Musically
we are pretty different, although many Lacuna Coil and Evanescence
fans seem to appreciate To-Mera too. We are much more experimental
and a pretty strange kind of mix compared to them though. I would
be really surprised if magazines started to compare us to each other
as apart from having female vocals and playing metal we have not much
else in common.
Metal Fanatix: Where would you like
to see the band in five to ten years from now?
Julie Kiss: Oh I don't like thinking
so ahead. What I am sure of is that we are going to try and do everything
in our power to try and get the band going, play lots of shows, work
on new songs and then we will just see what happens!
Metal Fanatix: Let's talk about life
on the road. No doubt that once the album is released you guys will
be hitting the road? Have there been any dates confirmed yet?
Julie Kiss: Yes but only the Bloodstock
show for 29th September. Unfortunately we are in a pretty difficult
situation at the moment. We are bombarded with gig offers but our
drummer lives in Hungary so, we will have to sort something out soon.
We are also talking about a serious tour in the UK and elsewhere but
nothing has been confirmed yet.
Metal Fanatix: Are there any plans in
the works for an Australian tour?
Julie Kiss: Well, anything is possible.
Nothing concrete yet though.
Metal Fanatix: What are you favorite
songs to perform live?
Julie Kiss: We haven't actually played
live yet so I can only refer to the rehearsals where my favorite is
Blood and Parfum. They have fantastic choruses and they are extremely
demanding songs but are fantastic to sing too. The rhythms of Parfum
just make my blood boil!
Metal Fanatix: As a vocalist no doubt
you need to keep your voice in the best condition possible, do you
do anything specific to warm up & prepare for a show?
Julie Kiss: Yeah warming up is very
important, but what is more important is to practice a couple of hours
daily. That really makes a huge difference.
Metal Fanatix: Julie, since you haven’t
taken To-Mera out on the road just yet; tell us what's the strangest/funniest
thing that has ever happened to you on stage while you were with Without
Julie Kiss: We did a tour a few years
back with Arch Enemy in the UK. We didn't have our keyboard player
with us at the London show so we had to use a mini disc player and
our drummer played with a click track. Now, he really really hated
it and in the middle of a song he just got really confused and started
to play a completely different part, which resulted in the guitar
player trying to follow him, again with a totally different part and
the other singer just going on as normal [laughs]. It resulted in
an unbelievable cacophony that strangely no one has noticed!
Metal Fanatix: [Laughs] that’
amazing! What has been the best show of your life so far?
Julie Kiss: Playing at the Sziget fest
in Hungary for about 4-5000 people. That was fantastic.
Metal Fanatix: And the worst?
Julie Kiss: Playing in Leipzig, Germany
on the tour with Samael and Cathedral, German audiences are tough
to convince sometimes.
Metal Fanatix: Beings in a relatively
new band, in your honest opinion what do you think about the direction
that hard rock and heavy metal music has taken over the last few years?
Julie Kiss: I am quite disappointed
and excited at the same time. The amount of shit copycat bands on
TV is boring me to death, but on the other hand the underground scene
is getting more and more exciting I think. Now, new bands pop up with
the weirdest of influences and some of them are really special.
Metal Fanatix: I guess we have to take
the good with the bad! What advice would you give to up and coming
Julie Kiss: To try and do their own
thing! Don't follow trends, be proud to be different and believe in
what you do.
Metal Fanatix: What's the one album
that changed your life?
Julie Kiss: Probably Metallica's ‘Master
Metal Fanatix: If you could put a band
together consisting of musicians passed and/or present who would they
be and what would you call the band?
Julie Kiss: I am quite happy with the
present line-up and name I think [laughs]. However if I had the chance
to create another weird band, independent of myself it would consist
of the guitarists from Death and from Anathema, the drummer of Meshuggah,
the keyboard player of Dream Theater, Bassist from Symphony X and
the Daniel Gildenlow from Pain of Salvation on the vocals. That'd
be weird [laughs].
Metal Fanatix: [Laughs] Yeah it would
be a little weird but imagine the awesome music they would create
[laughs]. Julie, I again want to thank you for your time, it's been
a true pleasure, I wish you all the best with the new album, hopefully
we will see you in Australia very soon. Do you have any last words
for our readers?
Julie Kiss: Thanks a lot or the interview!
Everyone please check out our lovely new websites where you can listen
to the two demo songs and find constant updates about the band etc.
See you on the road!
To-Mera will be headlining the second stage
at this year’s ‘Bloodstock’ Festival on September
29th, make sure you witness this historic performance. Get your Tix
from the usual outlets.
To-Mera’s debut album ‘Transcendental’ will be released
For all the latest developments, tour dates & more check out the
- Official To-Mera Site
- To-Mera MySpace Site
- Dedicated to 40 years of hard rock & metal music
© Cameron Edney June, July 2006 Not to be re-printed in any form
without written permission.