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Greetings, today on the Metal Pit we will be chatting with Erika Morgengrau and Reba Carls from the band Morgengrau.

The Metal Pit: Hello Erika,welcome back to the Metal Pit and to you Reba I bid you a first time welcome, how are the two of you doing?

 Erika: Hey Nick, it's great to be back. Thanks for having us!

 Reba: Hey, doing well, thank you, and thank you for the opportunity.

 

The Metal Pit: Wow, well where do we start... I guess since the last time we chatted Erika, you have gone through sort of a metamorphosis of sorts, wouldn't you say, haha? When we last talked you were the vocalist for the band Ignitor which penned a timeless classic tune "Demonslayer" that still sends chills down my spine every time I hear your vocals. I considered you the female Rob Halford, at least in my opinion, then within a few years time, things drastically changed for you musically and personally. I think I know the story but I am sure you will tell it better since you lived it. Can you give us a Reader's Digest version (so to speak) of some of the changes you went through?

Erika: Nick, you’ve always been so kind and enthusiastic about Ignitor, so thank you! As a musician, I've gone through a lot of journeys and Ignitor was one of them. It was fun and we wrote some great songs, but all the time I was pushing them to go heavier, to make it darker. They weren't that band. In 2007, I finally admitted to myself that it wasn't right for me to stay as my heart wasn't in it. It was very hard because the timing was terrible - our album "Road of Bones" had just come out - but it would have been worse if I'd stayed. Afterward, I did a bunch of session work with Tony Bracaglia, an excellent shredder down in Florida. We put together an album's worth of dark, driving power metal. You can find most of it on my Reverbnation page. With Tony, I found the spot where I needed to be when doing power/classic metal style vocals - soulful and gritty and tortured - but I still had that urge, that itch I couldn't scratch with melodic stuff. In my heart of hearts, I wanted to play death metal. I'd played guitar in my teens - spent most of my time trying to play stuff that was way over my ability on a rig that was a total piece of shit, so I got discouraged pretty fast. When I went to college I sold my stuff and spent the next 20 years telling myself and everyone else what a shitty guitarist I'd been. The telling thing was even despite all that negative self-talk, a part of me yearned to pick it up again and write songs. In 2008, I started "casually" looking at guitars and by 2009, I’d bought some decent gear and began refreshing my memory. Shortly thereafter, started jamming with Reba. Within a year, we had Morgengrau going, and a year later, we started playing shows. This is the band I was meant to do. It just took me 20 years to realize it.

 

Morgengrau1The Metal Pit: Why did you decide to change musical genres and to pretty much re-invent yourself?

Erika: This wasn't so much a reinvention as it was a recognition - I finally listened to my inner voice and began making the music that has always ignited my fiercest passions.

 

The Metal Pit : Please don't be offended by this Erika but you know how much I loved the whole Ignitor/Bracaglia Erika Tandy's Amazing Voice and Attitude and don't get me wrong I love the new stuff as well but it is drastically different, do you get a lot of that kinda thing from your fans or am I the only Asshole, lol?

Erika: I haven't gotten any of this with Morgengrau, but I did get it when I moved from Autumn Tears to Ignitor. Some of those emails and comments were hilarious - folks so upset you’d think I’d raped their babies and eaten their kittens. “How could you?” and all that. It was a case study in “The Emotional Attachment of the Goth to Their Music.” I think many fans of music like Ignitor’s don’t delve into the death metal realm, so they don’t even know about Morgengrau. Those who have followed me are very enthusiastic and supportive, which I appreciate very much. Morgengrau has also opened up many new opportunities and avenues to meet new folks who are more in alignment with my attitudes and beliefs. Everything feels like it finally fits, which is fantastic.

 

 The Metal Pit: How would you describe the band's sound, I would say mostly Death Metal but with a slight mix of Thrashyness to it as well, is that an accurate description?

Erika: You nailed it. Death influenced by old school 90s bands like Asphyx, Pestilence, Immolation seasoned with some well-placed Slayer-esque thrash elements. It wasn't until Hanneman died and I spent a good month ODing on Slayer that I realized how much influence Slayer had on me as a songwriter and player.

Reba: I’d say that’s pretty apt. I think we all share a lot of common ground but have slightly different musical preferences, and we all bring something different to the table.

 

The Metal Pit: Oh and please ladies, tell some of the younger fans out there that just because a band has an "Extreme" singer, DOES NOT make them a Death Metal band, right?

Erika: It's got to be the whole package. You don't get to put lyrics about your girlfriend over crushing riffs, unless you're writing about dismembering her or how she's actually an emissary of Satan. You also don't get to clean sing: no whining, no yodeling, and please, for fuck's sake, no thick-rimmed glasses and shaggy hair. That's not metal; that's fucking pussy shit that should be stomped flat.

Reba:  Agreed. And for that matter, heavy double bass and blast beats doesn’t make you death metal either, just like adding keyboards doesn’t make you a black metal band.  It’s not just about being super technical, or even being a flawless musician.  There’s almost something kind of intangible about real metal - black, death, thrash, or whatever. It’s got to have a real depth to it. It’s hard to describe to someone who hasn’t been immersed in it.

 

The Metal Pit: Please tell us what real Death Metal means to you both?

Erika: Freedom from the fetters of fear and the unknown, acceptance of the inevitable, and the power that comes from allowing those chains to fall away.

Reba: For me it really is a feeling of power… I don’t know how else to describe it. It makes me feel like I can take on the world, whether I’m listening to it or playing it.  It’s also a release of frustration, not necessarily anger, just frustration that comes from everyday boring, normal existence, and all the shit in this world that you don’t have control over.

 

The Metal Pit: How did the band actually come together?Morgengrau2

Erika: Reba, I'll let you take this one!

Reba: Ha, ok, well I’ll give it a shot. I’m not exactly the historian in this band. I met Erika while she was still singing with Ignitor. I had gone to a show at the Back Room, admittedly to see a different band, and Ignitor was on the same show. Needless to say, I was very impressed with the performance and with Erika’s in particular. I went up to her after the show and introduced myself, and bought one of their CDs.  I think we knew pretty much immediately that we were kindred spirits. It was right around this time that I started to get serious about playing drums, and my first band was in the process of being formed. For a while we just saw each other randomly at shows, and would hang out and talk, and eventually it came up that I played drums. So Erika started coming out to see me play, and eventually approached me about doing a project together. Initially, I kind of assumed she was thinking of another power metal project of some kind, which I was totally down for, although I didn’t really listen to a lot of power or progressive metal at the time and wasn’t really sure how I was going to approach it. Anyway, we started jamming, just the two of us at first, and I realized that was definitely not what she had in mind. We worked on covers for a while at first, mostly Asphyx and Pestilence, some Hail of Bullets and a few poorly rendered Goatwhore songs. Eventually, we started working on original material - I think “Extrinsic Pathway” was one of the first that came together, and then “Chemosh Enlighten” and “Antithetical” pretty quickly after that. Once we’d written those first few songs, I knew we were really onto something. I felt the way Erika described herself feeling earlier - this was the stuff I had always wanted to play, this was what was inside me. I just never had the right outlet for it.Jake was the next to join. Erika knew him more than I did -  he was a kid we saw at a lot of shows.  He was so enthusiastic and dedicated right from the beginning. I knew he was in it for the long run. The second guitar slot was a little harder to fill. She talked to a few people for a while that seemed interested, but they didn’t through.  J.T. from Hexlust tried out, and seemed like a good fit, but decided he wouldn’t be able to dedicate the time to another band.  Not long after that she brought in Nick - and the rest is pretty much history.

 

The Metal Pit: Can you tell us a little about your band mates?

 Erika: The best friends a person could wish for. Patient, always enthusiastic, hard-working. They’re very collaborative and ego-less musicians which makes songwriting a real pleasure.  I will always be touched that they think enough of what we're doing to follow my crazy plans and schemes.

Reba: Just really cool, drama-free, highly intelligent and very talented individuals.

 

The Metal Pit: The band recently released its first CD entitled "Extrinsic Pathway" and from all accounts it has been very well received by fans and media alike. Where did the title of the CD come from and how does that title relate to what you are trying to achieve with your music?

Reba: I don’t want to give too much away, I think it kind of takes away some of the magic, but the phrase has to do with blood. People can look it up if they’re really curious. It was just something that immediately stood out to me as soon as I heard it - I scribbled “Extrinsic Pathway”, underlined, at the top of the page of notes I was writing. I just thought it was a really cool, unique way of describing the way I feel I’ve always lived my life, probably the way a lot of us feel about our lives. Like we’re just on the outside of everything, walking in the same direction but completely separate from all these other people.

 

The Metal Pit: I know you're no dummy Erika and the lyrics on this CD definitely drive that point home, did you write all the lyrics for the CD and what kind of things inspire you to write?

 Erika:  I really love writing lyrics, despite the act always being a struggle. I have to be in just the right frame of mind. It’s a very analog process - I’ll scribble a lot of short phrases on scraps of paper then let them sit for a few weeks until I’ve forgotten what I wrote. When it comes time to work on lyrics, I’ll get all my piles together and rediscover what works with the song in question. Then it’s a matter of clearing my mind, opening up the pathways and letting the rest come. The lyrics for “Extrinsic” arose from a lot of different mind-sets, and so cover a broad range compared to the very focused concept I’m currently working on. As with many first albums, I was looking for the right footing with the subject matter so we went with what felt right. A few of the songs are historical narratives, while others are more deeply personal.

 

Morgengrau5The Metal Pit: A few of my fav tunes on the CD are "White Death", "Choking Grove" and "Polymorphic Communion" which is just a killer tune, can you tell us the meaning behind these tunes and if you and Reba have a particular favorite?

Erika: Nick was the source of inspiration for "White Death.” He’s very interested in military history. We were hanging out one night and he brought up Simö Häyä, the infamous Finnish sniper from WWII who took out 505 soldiers during the Winter War. I already knew I wanted that song to be about war in some way, so his suggestion inspired me to explore the moment right before the sniper pulls the trigger in as evocative way as possible. "Choking Grove" also has a military root. Years and years ago, I stumbled across a website describing a huge, rotting gas munitions dump in the Belgian forest of Houthulst. A toxic danger as hidden within the idyllic peace of a European forest was an interesting juxtaposition. "Polymorphic Communion" is the odd man out on the album but also one of our favorite songs. It’s an homage to John Carpenter’s “The Thing” (1982). Some may think it’s kitschy to write a death metal song about a movie, but to me, that film is death-metal incarnate. Isolation, paranoia, pain, suffering and grotesque horror - modern entertainment has never, and probably never will, surpass its sublime combination of those elements. Instead of just writing a narrative (which is definitely kitschy), I wanted to treat the subject as if we were calling a god. This approach was further inspired by a short story written by Peter Watts, published in Clarksworld Magazine in 2010, called "The Things." Watts takes a brilliant approach, framing the creature as a benevolent explorer who believes it brings a type of quasi-holy communion to the universe. There’s much more to the story, so I suggest you Google it immediately. It’s a short, lunch-hour read.

 Reba: It’s really hard to pick a favorite. “Polymorphic” is definitely one of them. It’s just such a fucking kickass song. I do love how “Chemosh Enlighten” and “Grave of Lies” come across on the album. They both have that just punishing, pummeling drive to them. “Antithetical” is just one of my favorite songs we’ve written, period. It’s one of my favorites to play live.

 

The Metal Pit: I see you did a remake of the Sepultura classic "Inner Self", what made you chose that song from that band and am I wrong or is there someone else singing on that tune?

Erika: We'd been jamming it for a while, just ripping it out all sloppy and shit at the end of practice, and it stuck. It parallels Jake’s coming of age while in the band - he shed all of his former ways after joining and truly embraced the metalhead lifestyle, so in honor of that, we decided to put it on the album. It’s Jake you hear singing on that one.

Reba:  I had first suggested covering it and Jake immediately seconded the idea. It’s one of my favorite songs and one I’ve always wanted to cover. I actually didn’t think anyone else would go for it! I sure as hell didn’t think it would end up on the album - that was Erika’s suggestion, which really surprised me.

 

The Metal Pit: Erika, I know this CD was a labor of love for you and a long time coming, are you happy with the overall outcome of the disc and how it has been received by your fans?Morgengrau6

Erika:  I'm extremely happy with it, and for anyone who knows me, they'll realize how rare that is for me to say. Typically, I hate my output. HATE it. Won't listen back to it for months, sometimes years. All I see/hear are my mistakes or the defects. With this one, I promised myself I'd take the time to fix all the mistakes. That’s why it took FOREVER. Everyone worked extremely hard on it and we're all quite proud. All that effort and time has paid off as listeners have embraced the record and given it a lot of praise. The reception has been much better than I expected.

 

The Metal Pit: Does the band have any major touring plans in support of the disc or are you pretty much staying local for the time being?

Erika:  Because of our schedules, we're unable to do long tours. I'm sure at some point we’ll do a week or so. We play once a month in Texas, never the same city two months in a row so the anticipation stays hot. We recently went to New York City to play the Martyrdoom II fest - that was killer. Now, we're planning a Midwest strike for the spring. I'd like to get the band over to Europe for a short tour in 2014. That will just take some very careful planning.

 

The Metal Pit : Erika, you taught yourself to play guitar over the last few years, do you play mostly rhythm in the band or do you play lead as well?

Erika: I played guitar during my teens so I wasn't starting from scratch. It's like riding a bike - you never really forget. On the recording, I played/wrote about 1/3 of the solos. Live, Nick handles most solo duty.

 

The Metal Pit: What kind of gear are you using Erika?

Erika: I recently picked up a used Marshall JCM800 KK - it sounds fucking crushing. I'll use it on the next recording. My workhorse amp is a Mesa Roadster Rectifier run through a Rectifier cab. Like many guitarists, I have multiple guitars - my go-tos are my Jackson King V and my Moser Faststar. The King V is a smooth, clean Cadillac of a guitar, the Moser is a pre-production prototype, so it has a raw feel to it. The neck is very petite so it’s very comfortable for me. For pedals, I keep it simple with an Ibanez Tube Screamer and a Boss Phaser.

 

Morgengrau4The Metal Pit: Reba, you are the drummer for the band. Can you tell us what other bands you have played with before Morgengrau?

Reba:  I played in one other band before Morgengrau, called Manifestation. That was my first band. I’m not really sure how to describe the music - sort of thrashy death metal, with some really melodic elements. More of a blackened edge to it than Morgengrau. I played a lot more thrash and blast beats in that band. I felt like we had some really good material, it just never went anywhere. We just played local shows and a few out of town gigs for a couple years, and did one demo. Then everything just kind of fell apart, mostly because of personal issues.

 

The Metal Pit: So,what kind of gear do you use Reba?

 Reba: I have a Tama Starclassic Birch/Bubinga kit, in Smoky Indigo Burst. It’s beautiful… The first day I brought it home I just took pictures of it from different angles. My snare is a big Tama Metalworks steel snare, 14x6.5 inches. It is loud as fuck.  Currently, I’m using a DW 5000 double pedal. It’s what I’ve used for many years, and I think for the price you really can’t beat it. It’s got great feel and is very reliable. I may branch out in the future and try something new. I’m kind of curious about the Tama Speedcobra that’s been out for a while now, as my first double pedal was a Tama Iron Cobra. I use mostly Zildjian cymbals, mainly ZBTs for the nice crisp, cutting sound to them that’s dark at the same time. Plus, they are a great value, and I have a really bad tendency to crack my crash cymbals really fast. I have one really nice Zildjian K Dark Crash and one old Sabian B8 ride that is a throwback from my very first kit.

 

The Metal Pit: Reba, what other drummers or bands have influenced you over the years?

Reba: I don’t know why I hate this question so much, or why I have such a hard time answering it. I guess I generally don’t think about how what I listen to affects what I play, I just play and it comes out the way it does. I feel like when people ask me this it just turns into an exhaustive list of every band I’ve ever listened to, and I listen to so many different things that don’t necessarily translate into what I play. I listen to everything from pagan-folk metal to really brutal, technical death metal. I’m probably one of the more musically eclectic in our group... but I’ll do my best here. When I was younger, I listened to a lot of punk and hardcore and more mainstream metal. Anthrax, Sepultura and Suicidal Tendencies were some of my favorite bands, still are some of my favorite bands. In my later teens, probably a few years before I got into playing drums, I got into death and black metal and all the other sub-categories of metal. Some of the bands I’d say had more of an impact on me as far my playing would be stuff like Suffocation, Nile, Decapitated, Malevolent Creation, Morbid Angel, and Goatwhore. Then someone introduced me to more brutal, technical death metal, and for a couple years that was mostly what I listened to. Bands like Psycroptic, Severe Torture, Spawn of Possession, Scent of Flesh, Prostitute Disfigurement.  There was also some  thrashier stuff like Skeletonwitch and Dred (now called Ouroboros) and more melodic death like Quo Vadis. In the past several years I’ve branched out even further. I’ve been listening to a lot of power and progressive metal and things in that vein, in addition to everything else - Iron Maiden, Blind Guardian, Iced Earth, Demons and Wizards… and a lot of Dio. Some of my favorite drummers are Igor Cavalera, Pete Sandoval, Dave Haley from Psycroptic, Zack Simmons from Goatwhore - as well as their former drummer Zak Nolan.  Definitely Derek Roddy and George Kolias - not just because they’re incredible drummers, but because they’re some of the only extreme metal drummers out there who are actively putting out information to help up and coming drummers. 

 

The Metal Pit : Ok, Reba… what is it like playing with Erika, is she as intense and driven in person as she seems on disc and in interviews, haha?

Reba: Yeah, she is. And it’s not a bad thing at all. I like to surround myself with people that I feel are always challenging me and pushing me to be a better version of myself.  I think if you don’t have that in your life, then you start to get soft, and you stop growing. She definitely challenges me, in a very positive way. She has high expectations, but never unreasonable expectations, for all of us, and she is always very understanding and compassionate when difficult situations arise.  I give her a lot of credit for helping me become the drummer I am today, however indirectly. And the fact that she’s never given up on me - and I’ve gone through some really rough patches in my drumming - means so much to me. We have a lot of similarities when it comes to work ethic, and belief in dedication to your commitments, so I think that’s part of why we’ve always worked well together…  And I just really, really hate lazy people, so in my book “intense and driven” scores a lot higher than “relaxed but unmotivated”.  There is definitely a sleeping dragon in her, and I have on occasion seen the fire start to rise, but I’ve never seen her lose her cool.

 

The Metal Pit: Well, you don't know me Reba but I think Erika knew this can of worms was going to come outta my mouth eventually.... how do you both feel about women in today's Metal scene and Erika...  please be gentle, lol?

Erika: I wish no one cared about gender and just would focus on talent and merit - I’ll be wishing for that until I’m dead and gone, I know. Metal is male-dominated and always will be. It should be. It's aggressive, violent music. The natural state of woman is not inherently aggressive or violent - for the most part, we are not set up to work that way. Women like me and Reba, who function more along the male model, are uncommon. The only women I’ve ever had long-term, close friendships with are other ladies in metal and even then, I find there’s a divide. I’m way too into talking about murder, war, brutality, social irresponsibility and the end of the humanity. I open my mouth and suddenly the “girl’s night” table is quiet. In the company of men, I can be myself. I resonate with the attitude, the energy, the subjects they talk about, the jokes, the aspect.In the end, all I want is to be judged on the same basis as my male colleagues. I don’t want a pass. I don’t want a center spread in a magazine. I don’t need validation - I already know who I am and what I’m about - so I just want my music to do the talking.

Reba: I think we’ve reached a point where that really is no longer a relevant question, or at least it shouldn’t be. Women in metal - really, in all things in life - should hold themselves to the same standards as men, and they should expect their fans will do the same. The best compliments I’ve gotten have been from people who told me they didn’t realize I was female until they saw me get off stage. That tells me they were really hearing the music, and not distracted by the fact that there was a girl behind the kit. That’s what I really strive for. I just want to be the best I can be and play the shit I can hear myself playing in my head - I don’t just want to be “that chick that plays drums”. I personally think it really detracts from your credibility when you use your sexuality to bring attention to yourself or to your music, whether that means dressing provocatively on stage or marketing yourself as, “all female death metal” or “female-fronted metal”. To me, that says your music can’t stand on its own and you feel people need an extra incentive to check it out. At the same time, I’m guilty of falling into that trap myself, I think we all are - I’ll seek out bands specifically because I know they have a female drummer, for example. It is still, unfortunately, a rare thing and that makes it novel, and interesting, and that’s just reality. All the more reason women should really be aware of how they are presenting themselves.

 

The Metal Pit: So, what can fans expect to see from a Morgengrau live show?Morgengrau3

Erika: An ear-destroying, face-ripping experience!

Reba: Musicians who put everything they’ve got into a performance.

 Erika:  Absolutely. I’m waiting for the day Jake either knocks himself out headbanging or takes me out on accident. The kid has two settings: rage and nuclear.

 

The Metal Pit: What is on the horizon for the band, any plans on making any videos and special shows coming up?

Erika: Breaking news (since it took me like 4 months to do this interview) – we just got signed to Unspeakable Axe Records for our next album. We are really excited to join their excellent roster. Like I mentioned earlier, we’ve got a Midwest strike planned for early 2014 - but no details are available at this moment. We thought for a while we’d do a video but I’m not sure I want to divide my energies between that and writing new music. Music’s more important. Now that we’re signed, it’s buckle-down time as far as writing!

 

The Metal Pit: Where can fans but your music and find out more about this very talented and exciting new band?

Erika: Anyone interested in learning more can go to the following sites:

http://www.reverbnation.com/morgengrau

http://morgengrau.bandcamp.com/album/extrinsic-pathway

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Morgengrau/112541632142818

 We’re also on Spotify, LastFM, iTunes, CDBaby, Amazon, YouTube and shit’s starting to turn up on the torrents so pretty much there is no excuse for not being able to find our music. However you have to get it, just get it. Check it out, send us a note through Facebook about what you think. Connect.

 

The Metal Pit:  Well my friends (notice how I didn't say ladies, lol)... I want to thank you for spending time with us today on the Metal Pit. Reba, thank you for tolerating all of my questions, your drumming skills on the CD are just sick and I wish you all the best with the band and all that you do. Erika, you know I think the world of you and I am so happy for you as you seem to be at peace with yourself and when you talk about this band I can feel the pride just gushing out of you, I'm so proud of you both as a musician and as a person and wish you all the best as well.

Erika: Thanks Nick. That means a lot to me. It’s really great to be making this music with a great group of friends and sharing with so many appreciative fans. Thanks to your readers for checking out this interview. HAIL METAL! HAIL DEATH!

 

The Metal Pit: Thank you both, it was very cool talking with you. Hope to see you on the road sometime soon!!!!

 Horns up Brothers and Sisters.........

Nick Rohm.