The Metal Pit's Metal Maiden of the month for December 2013 Sharon Bascovsky, vocalist and guitar player for the band DERKATA and also bassist for the band EVISCIUM Hometown: Oakdale, PA, USA Contact Info: Sharon@Derkéta.com Miser Photography The Metal Pit : Greetings to you Sharon, welcome to the Metal Pit. Sharon: Howdy! The Metal Pit : You are sort of a pioneer in the Death Metal genre because when you first started out with the band Derkéta, there were not a lot of females playing that kind of music. What inspired you to get into heavy music and start this band? Sharon: I started listening to metal at a young age, between classic rock and heavy metal, whatever was played on the radio stations back then. I was instantly inspired to learn how to play guitar. I also had an interest in horror movies and the darker sides of life in general so it was natural to combine the two into what I would eventually start writing. When I first got my guitar in 1985, I really had no interest in being in a band. It was just my love of guitar sounds that I wanted to play around with. As I was trying to figure out song parts of what I would hear, I started stumbling over note combinations and would think that would sound killer if it was in a song. The very first original riff that I wrote is the ending of the demo song Time of Awakening, it sounded like a funeral march to me. So I started writing my own material because it was more fun than learning other bands songs. Once I started writing my own stuff it was only natural to want to hear it all together with other instruments. Back then I guess it was odd for a female to be into darker more extreme music. For me, it wasn’t strange at all. It’s just how it is. The Metal Pit: Where did the band name Derkéta come from and how do you think it's relates to your music? Sharon: Once I met Terri and we decided to form the band, we had a tough time trying to come up with a band name that fit. Our good friend Jeff Cherep (guitarist from Doomwatch, now Submachine) was reading the Conan series and told us we should name ourselves Derkéta, who was the Goddess of Death. Since we were into death metal and were females, it just seemed to fit. Miser Photography The Metal Pit : Can you tell us a bit about your band mates and how you all came together Sharon: I met Terri at a party; she and I started talking and I had mentioned that I was writing music and was thinking of starting a band. She said she was interested so we swapped phone numbers and got to know each other. I met Mary through Don Crotsley of Nun Slaughter. Originally he was going to be our bassist but once he met Mary, found out that she was into metal and was going to college for bass, he had said that she would be a better fit for us since she was an actual trained musician. And he thought it would be interesting if we ended up being all females playing metal since it was so rare. We all lived in the same town, became friends, so it just kind of happened that way. The all female thing was never something that we were going for but once I met Mary, I really liked her personality so we talked her into it. Around that time Robin had flown up to meet us as she was interested in playing guitar for us but I didn’t know that was the reason why she flew up. There was personal tension going on between me and Terri and there was a lot being discussed behind my back. Shortly after this all is when Terri and I had enough of each other and parted ways. Years later I ran into Terri and approached her about playing drums again. It took about 5 years to talk her into it, and I held out on Derkéta releases until she decided to do it again. She finally made the decision at I think an Obituary show, where Robin was on tour with them selling merch. We mentioned to Robin that we were going to get together to record and that is when Robin said that she wanted to join but this time on bass, talk Mary into playing guitar, record and play live shows. We all discussed it, decided to do it, but Terri really had no desire to really do it long term. Once we started talking about wanting to play outside the US is when she told us that she really can’t put that much time into the band and decided to quit. We were then asked to open up for Nokturnal Hellstorm but I had to tell the promoter that we were without a drummer and asked him if he knew of any drummers who would be interested in joining. He spoke to Mike Laughlin and the next thing I know, Mike and I got in contact and he set up his drums. Things have been going very well with Mike; he really fits in with us well. Trish came onboard as we needed to find someone local to be ready to step in as a backup musician. Robin lives in Tampa and sells merch for touring bands for a living. With her touring schedule, we didn’t want to miss out on too many shows. Trish had actually contacted me years ago to join on guitar but at that time the lineup wasn’t really in place. Mary ran into her at a show, they discussed it, and she agreed to help us out for either guitar or bass duty. We actually have a good group of people in this band! We are all good friends now and it’s quite entertaining when we all get together! The Metal Pit: Derkéta is sort of unique in that there are 4 females and one guy,does he take alot of abuse from you ladies, haha? Sharon: We have no idea why Mike puts up with us! He doesn’t get any kind of abuse but he is privy to the female discussions that go on. He is so chill and laid back that it’s always just comical. If one of us girls blurts something female related out, his usual response is “uh oh” with a blank look on his face. We’re all comfortable with one another so it’s not weird in any way to have him in the band with us. He has the “inside scoop” on us girls but it all stays within our little circle which makes for some good private jokes. He is an excellent drummer, played in Cattle Decapitation and Creation is Crucifixion, and because of him we’ve become tighter as a band. The Metal Pit: When did you first start singing and playing an instrument and at what age did you realize this was something you wanted to do seriously? Sharon: I first started playing guitar when I was 15 but had zero desire to be a vocalist. I don’t have a good singing voice and am really not a public kind of person. Originally Terri was going to be the vocalist but she had no idea when we were first talking about starting a band that I meant a death metal band. When I asked to hear her vocals she started singing more on the lines of Fates Warning and I said no, I’m looking more for a Kam Lee kind of vocal style. She said there was no way that she could sing like that so I asked her if there was an instrument that she would like to learn to play instead. She said drums. That left me to do the vocal duties but I had no idea at that time if I could actually do them either. Jeff Cherep invited us over to the Doomwatch practice space where he gave Terri some quick drum lessons and we decided to check out my vocals. Jeff played Death’s “Pull the Plug” on guitar and I sang along with it as we recorded it onto cassette. When we played it back, we were all shocked and I had thought he somehow altered my vocals to sound like that but it was just a cassette recording in a boom box. It was decided that I got the vocalist job. I didn’t actually start singing and playing until we all reformed, which I think was in 2009. Prior to that I never owned a microphone and in the old days, we broke up before we ever had a full established lineup to actually play shows. I never needed to do it. I was surprised to find that playing and singing came naturally. Photo by Niuvis Martin The Metal Pit: What kind of gear do you use? Sharon: I play Gibson Custom Edition XPL Explorer’s with a Kahler. They were only made in 1985 and 1986 so you don’t see too many of them around. I’m definitely a Gibson girl. Right now I’m using a B52 AT-100 tube head with Mesa tubes and a Mesa 4x12 cabinet, and a Polytune tuner. Dean Markley Blue Steel DT is my strings of choice. For vocals, I’ve been using an Audio-Technica microphone which is a cheap mic but it really picks up the low end of my vocals. And for picks, I use the Snarling Dogs Brain Guitar Picks, the orange ones. I like them a lot. I don’t use any pedal effects these days. The Metal Pit: The band is currently playing live shows supporting your CD "In Death we Meet" which is a Death Metal masterpiece in my opinion. How has the cd been received by fans at your shows? Sharon: Thank you! I’m very proud of that CD, it was about 20 years in the making and I’m happy it finally made the light of day. People seem to be diggin’ it! We were surprised that it made several top 5 and top 10 lists for Best 2012 releases; we weren’t sure how it would fit into this modern age of death metal. We’re almost sold out of the first 1000 pressing of it, which isn’t bad since we decided not to go with a label and are doing this all ourselves. It’s all been word of mouth and selling them at our shows. We’ve gained quite a few more fans from playing live. It seems that people don’t know what to expect when they see a bunch of girls go on stage but merch sales are always good after we’re done performing. The Metal Pit: Can you tell us a bit about the cd, maybe how it came to be or some of your fav songs from the disc? Sharon: Well, it was something that had been nagging at me since 1991. I’m extremely laid back with it all so I don’t feel any kind of “scene pressure” to get something out there. In 2000 a close friend of the family was killed in a car accident and the confusion of her death really consumed my mind. I sat down to play my guitar one day, with no intention of writing a song about that event (I’m not artsy like that) but it happened. I ended up writing the song “In Death We Meet” from start to finish, lyrics and arrangement, right then and there. That song writing process had never happened to me before. Normally ill write a riff or think of a lyrical line and then ideas will come from that. That is when I decided it was time to talk to Terri about recording the album because I felt it was time to get everything recorded and I wanted her to be a part of it. The album “In Death We Meet” was supposed to be the last Derkéta recording and since she was there in the beginning, I wanted her to be there in the end. But it all just snowballed from there. There are a few songs that I like, and this is the first recording that I’ve done that I actually will listen to. I really like “Goddess of Death” because that song was going to be the next Derkéta song released back in 1991, although some of the riffs and arrangements, lyrics and song title have been changed since the original form, but the beginning intro to it is the original idea that has nagged at me for over 20 years. Obscurities of Darkness, Witchburned and In Death We Meet I like. I like all of the songs really except I can do without “Until Our Death”. It’s just so repetitive but that’s just how it turned out. Photo by Niuvis Martin The Metal Pit: Did everyone in the band have a say in the writing process? Sharon: Most of the songs were already written but the ones that I wrote when we were all together, Terri would “yay” or “nay” some of the riffs so she helped on getting the songs solidified to song form. I did use one of Mary’s riffs on the recording. It’s the riff that’s in between the vocal verses in “Goddess of Death”. She played it one day at practice and I ended up taking out the riff that I had for that part and used hers instead. Going forward, I’m looking forward to everyone collaborating on the song writing as I never had the opportunity to have that before. The Metal Pit: As the singer, do you write all of the lyrics and if so, where do you draw inspiration from? Sharon: Yes. In the early days, Terri contributed to some of the lyrics on the demo but everything past the demo has just been me. As far as inspiration, it’s really just these random lyrical lines that will pop in my head out of nowhere. From that line, I’ll create some sort of a story out of it. The one thing that has helped is Robin will think up a song title and ill write lyrics based on that title. The song “Shadows of the Past” was written that way. I call her my lyrical muse and will email her to send me a song title and then I’ll go with it. It’s kind of fun. She just gave me a good topic to write about a few days ago. The Metal Pit: This band "IS" true Death Metal, not just a band fronted by a someone who growls and fakes it's way through it. Can you describe to some of the fans out there what your definition of "Real' death Metal is? Sharon: Aw man, this is a tricky question! What I find is lacking in a lot of the death metal genre is a genuine feel for what they are writing. It appears to me that it has gotten into this competition of extreme brutality; of who has the lowest vocals, sickest most offensive lyrics, lowest tuned guitar, the fastest drummer and so on. I have zero interest in any of those things and that is not what was happening in the early days of death metal. When death metal first started, it was stemmed from the influence of classic rock, heavy metal, and thrash; but giving it a darker heavier feel. The bands that don’t really understand it most likely will think we are generic and simple but the point is, it’s not about showcasing your extreme abilities. It has to make some sort of a dark sense. Simple is heavy. Too much going on is just clutter. The Metal Pit: Well, being that we are all "Yinzers" ( Pittsburgers),what are some of your fav clubs you like to play in and have you heard that the world famous 31st Street Pub is being sold? Sharon: I like playing at the Smiling Moose with the exception of the steep stairs to load gear in and out of. I really like Howlers, the Rex (played there with Eviscium), Belvederes and the 31st Street Pub. Yes, I’ve heard that the pub is for sale. Hopefully whoever ends up buying it will continue on with business as usual. I like Mr. Smalls but I haven’t had the opportunity to play there yet. The sound is incredible. I don’t like the layout of the Altar Bar. I actually hate going to shows there because of it. The Metal Pit: The area has really grown over the last few years as far as clubs playing more Metal bands, don't you think? Sharon: Oh yeah. Lots of scene competition for show turnout. The Metal Pit: Sharon, you are also the bass player for the band Eviscium, can you tell us about them and how you manage to find the time for two bands plus a life? Sharon: We haven’t actually played together since 2004 or 2006, I’m horrible with dates. We’ve been talking about getting together to record the unreleased material but everyone is busy with other things. I’m hoping it does happen. Mark Mastro from Rottrevore is the song writer of that band, lots of good stuff festered up in his brain! I’m not sure how I’ll end up balancing the two bands but I expect to be spending a lot of money of gas driving for rehearsals. With Derkéta, we practice at my house. With Eviscium, it’s about a 45 minute or so commute. The bands are pretty much what I do with my time so ill always find a way to make it happen. I chose bands before any kind of a personal life as that is what I get the most satisfaction from. The Metal Pit: Is there any new music in the works for Eviscium? Sharon: I think there are about 12 unrecorded songs. The last that I spoke to Mark, he was tweaking them up. Once he settles on them and has the time, he’ll send them over to me to start learning. I actually forgot the songs we were working on. It’s been a while since I’ve been in the Eviscium mindset, about 10 years now. The Metal Pit: How would you describe the differences between the two bands? Sharon: Oh man, another tough question! Eviscium is much heavier than Derkéta. Someone once said if Autopsy and Coffins had a baby, it would be Derkéta. Eviscium is more on the lines of Dismember or Carnage. Still death metal, but Derkéta has more of a doom/death influence. The Metal Pit: Are both bands currently out playing the club scene in the area? Sharon: Just Derkéta, but we have one more show booked until the end of the year then we’re stopping all live performances for the winter so we can just focus on the new material and recording. Photo by Brian Pattison The Metal Pit: How extensive are you able to tour at the moment as I'm sure you all still have day jobs at the moment? Sharon: Yeah, we all have day jobs so we can’t really go on an extensive tour but we could do a short stretch. In all honesty, it would work out better for us to just play festivals where people fly in from all over versus us trying to book tours in different cities/countries. It just makes more sense. Hopefully we’ll get some international festival offers so people can catch us before we decide to call it quits. We’re not getting any younger and if a major illness would happen to strike us, then we’ll be shit out of luck. The Metal Pit: It seems like Metal music has really prospered over the last few years with the whole social media thing, do you feel things like I-tunes and Facebook have helped get your music out to more fans? Sharon: Definitely, people spend a lot of time on the internet and with the metal scene being global; it has made it easy to get our presence out there. It has been beneficial to us for sure. The Metal Pit: What advice would you give to young women who want to get into this type of music and think of you as a role model? Sharon: Just do it and don’t look back. Never feel intimidated or self conscious if people will like it or not. The only thing that matters is that you’re doing what YOU want to do. The rest will fall into place. Stay away from the competition mind frame and do what comes natural to you. Also, don’t get bothered if people focus on your gender. Who cares?? Guys pee standing up, girls pee sitting down; it is what it is and has nothing to do with your musical or song writing ability. Don’t fall into the intimidation trap of feeling that you have to prove yourself to the male gender. They are, after all, our peers in metal. The Metal Pit: I don't imagine you have much free time but when you do what kinds of things do you like to do? Sharon: Well, I watch a lot of TV and sleep a hell of a lot. I don’t like to go out so I spend the majority of my time at home; I’m somewhat of a recluse. Facebook is my “social therapy” I suppose, to get used to “socializing” with strangers and band promotion. I don’t know, I mainly do house chores, hang out with my dogs and cats, and write and listen to music. Doesn’t sound too exciting seeing it typed out here but I’m extremely content and happy with it all, it’s what works for me. I’m never bored; I never have that bored feeling. I’m not into collecting anything, it seems like collectors are never satisfied and they always have an ongoing mission to have more stuff. I did take lessons in knitting a few years ago and I’d like to get back into knitting some more scarves. I’m totally not joking there as I realize how this must be sounding but there is something soothing about the repetitive hand movements and creating something. It’s something that I plan on doing when I’m elderly, got to think ahead! I do go out to catch a metal show and will meet up with some close friends for a few drinks here and there so I’m not a total goner. The Metal Pit: Are you all geared up and ready for another Pittsburgh winter,I know I HATE IT,lol? Sharon: The snow is falling right now! I’m not looking forward to the winter heating bills but I enjoy a good snowfall. It makes everything look so magical or something. As long as it’s not too windy, I don’t mind the winter. I enjoy having seasons. The Metal Pit: What is on the horizon for your bands as far as new music and touring and are there any videos in the works? Sharon: With Eviscium, that is hard to say as it’s not my decision. I’m just waiting for the phone call of when everyone is ready to record but I know Mark had mentioned that he doesn’t want to play anymore live shows. That could always change. With Derkéta, we will spend this winter writing and recording so we will see what comes of it all. I’m happy with what I’ve been writing thus far and am excited to get it all solidified on a recording. Right now Ola Lindgren from Grave is remixing “In Death We Meet” for vinyl. The mix is so massive sounding that I’ve decided to discontinue the original recording and the next CD pressing will be the remix with the addition of some live bonus tracks. We are recording a new song and a cover song in December/January for a 7” (45 speed) that will be released by a local record shop here called Mindcure Records. It’ll just be a limited 300 copy run, and we’ll sell the MP3’s online if people would like a digital copy of it. As far as touring, we’ll probably just continue to play the odd ball show here and there. This might sound weird but it’s really not about getting exposure for us. We’re not delusional on “making it big”, we all have our career paths in life. Band stuff is just an expensive hobby that we simply enjoy doing. Travel expenses are just too much for us to venture out too far unless a promoter is willing to pay for us. We would much rather spend our money on producing a product for people to listen to. We would love to play outside the US but it’s not in our budget at this time. I would like for our fans to see us perform live while we’re still able to do it though. Time is a ticking! Both Robin and Mary have been talking about doing a video so we’ll see what we end up doing. I’ll leave that up to them to decide so I can focus on the songwriting. The Metal Pit: What does it mean to you to be chosen as the Metal Pit's Maiden of the Month? Sharon: I’m honored that you think I’m worthy of it! I’m very appreciative that I was even considered, especially when we don’t have label support pushing us down anyone’s throats. Thank you! We spend a lot of time, money and effort into what we do and it feels great to know that somebody out there is into it. That is the best reward, when you find “like minded” people that “get” what we’re doing, ya know? Also, December is my birthday month so I’m thrilled to be the Maiden of December, even though this maiden is an old hag! I’ll take it though! 😉 The Metal Pit: Well Sharon, as fate would have it you will be my final interview for the Metal Pit and I am proud to have had the opportunity to interview you and to help promote one of Pittsburgh's finest Metal bands. We wish you and your bands continued success in the future. Sharon: Thank you Nick! I really enjoyed answering your questions and hope my answers are interesting enough for the readers. Hopefully your work schedule will slow down some so you can relax a bit, and thanks for finding the time to interview me. Till next time! One last time Brothers and Sisters........................Horns Way Up!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Photo by Jim Pitulski Nick Rohm.