Julie Kiss - To-Mera, Without Face - Back
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, enjoy.

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 complaining?

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 writing?

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:

Julie Kiss:

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 our existence...

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 language?

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 oh well!

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 Face?

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 rock/metal bands?

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 of Puppets’.

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 in September

For all the latest developments, tour dates & more check out the following websites:

http://www.to-mera.com - Official To-Mera Site
http://www.myspace.com/tomeraband - To-Mera MySpace Site
http://insideout666.mysite.freeserve.com - 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.