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Mercy Isle Interview
Written by Doctor T.   
Friday, 27 March 2015

Mercy Isle Interview
Conducted live and via Skype at the Club Tavern
Middleton, Wisconsin
March  2015


Mercy Isle

 

Mercy Isle is a new music project in it’s infancy from here in the state of Wisconsin and elsewhere. It had an interesting birthplace, one I think most of you will be familiar with. And, it is composed of some of my personal favorite musicians, in this country and elsewhere. A lot of other serious musicians are familiar with them too and have long appreciated their talent. I’ve been screaming both in person and in print for this project for a number of years as have others so no one is more excited about its potential than I am.



This conversation took place in the Madison, Wisconsin area at a local saloon on a frigid Sunday morning. There were a lot of people, some with the band including Kassi and Chad Novell, and Cory Scheider the guitar player. We brought some friends, including Cory’s girlfriend, Megan Orvold a local metal singer, along for the good time and solid libation. Keyboard player Joop de Rooij was Skyped in from Amsterdam. And, since lead singer Kassi Novell has contributed to a number of Sonic Cathedral articles, she began the interview.

Kassi:  (addressing Joop on Skype) What direction do you see the music taking sir?

Joop:  (everyone laughing) Sir? I don’t know what you mean by sir. What I see in the things we’ve built so far is, it’s metal, of course, with a huge influence of folk music, synthesized music and alt rock from that day and age. We’re all huge fans of this synth and new age music from the 80s. You can hear it in what we’re doing right now.

Kassi:  There’s an interesting cast of characters here. Could you talk a little about the band members and where they came from. So talk about how Dutch you are.

Mercy Isle 

 

Joop:  You can’t find folks more Dutch than I am I think (laughing). The entire group already connected as you can read on the web site. If you go with Cory, Adam and Chad they were already together for a few years paying different bands and kind of the Three Musketeers. And as for Kassi I know her for a few years from Metal Female Voices Fest. So this accident was really bound to happen.

Kassi:  True, true that. There’s a lot of musical influences here representing a range of musical styles. How do you mesh these various components into a new sound?

Joop:  We just do, that’s all. (everyone laughs)

Kassi:  It’s just too early on Sunday morning

Joop:  There’s nothing magical or scientific about it. I mean basically when we came together it was a mixture and exchange of ideas we had. Different people had some ideas, Kassandra had some songs ready, some vocal lines ready, and we just did what we felt was right. And all of a sudden it became, we had one song done within a few weeks. The other songs which we are making right now are having those same chemistry which is too what we feel is right and somehow it fits.

Waitress:  What will it be folks?

Kassi:  Do you have chicken fingers?

Doctor T:  That’s part of the interview Joop, do they have chicken fingers?

Joop:  I want fish fingers and custard.

Kassi:  (to waitress): He wants fish fingers and custard. Can we get fish fingers and custard for my friend in Amsterdam?

Waitress: I don’t know if we deliver that far.

Joop:  They don’t have take away there?

Kassi:  He wants take away

Doctor T:  Trust me, the Bloody Marys are worth coming over for.

Joop:  See you soon.

Kassi:  Back to business. There’s some geographic challenges especially with Joop being on a different continent. How do you plan to address that challenge?

Joop:  Well, first of all, the thing we are doing right now is really not that challenging as it might seem. I mean, we have the technology to communicate in different ways. We can e-mail stuff to each other, we can have group chats, we can have video chats like this, there are even applications where musicians can play together on line without a huge monetary input so it really isn’t that hard to connect. And, as for live performance, we’ll be working on that and of course we will not be able to proceed as much as we would love to. But all the things we can do by ourselves at home using various technologies, its very easy actually. This is not a joke. I’ve been in a few bands before and we got things done in a time span I never experienced before. So basically, there are no challenging issues about it what so ever.

Doctor T:  Let me make sure I’ve got this. Yea, it works. OK, now let’s talk about the track I’ve got. First, how did you do that stuff at the end (choral work at the end of the first track)?

 Mercy Isle

 

Chad:  There’s four parts. She sang them in her range then I sang them in my range and then Cory put them together and it sounds like a choir.

Cory:  We did that because we wanted it to sound huge, really huge.

Doctor T:  Well, lets get back to basics here. Could you talk a little about how this effort evolved. How did this get put together, especially without my knowing about it?

Cory:  Well, we’re at MFVF this year together and Kassi’s on stage with Aziza (Aria Flame) and with the Metal Female Voices United Project and I had person after person coming up to me and saying “We love Kassi, we love her voice. When the hell is she going to put a band together? We’re sick and tired of hearing her for one or two songs, we want to hear her for a full set. She’s been doing guests for this band and that band and two songs for Eve’s Apple every year.”

Kassi:  Aziza and Sabrina and even Marcella Bovio were giving me lectures about how I needed to put a band together. Marcella chewed on my ear for about 45 minutes. She sat me down and and said, “You need to put a band together. If you need me to hook you up with people from the Metal Factory I can do that” So there are some talented people that I’ve wanted to work with, I’ve been on Cory’s ass for a long time too.

Cory:  Yea, you had sent me a message a while ago to look into that.

Chad:  Yea, but even at MFVF when people asked me when you (Kassi) were going to put a band together I said “I don’t know, you gotta ask her.”

Kassi:  Two years ago at MFVF I was hanging out with Joop at the Ibis and he was playing some of his music for me, some piano thing which I think we are going to put in one of the other songs so I’m listening to it and, one of the dark sides of it, this is so Denny Elfman and Chad went nuts over this. This is really good, I wonder if Joop is going to ask me to be in a band with him. And he never asked me so finally I just asked him. So I said, you, you, you and Joop, we’re in a band.

Chad:  And that’s pretty much how it went down. After all that we got back from Europe and she said “Oh, by the way, I’m starting a band and, by the way, you’re the base player.” And then she hit up the other guys and said I want you in the band.

Mercy Isle 

 

Cory:  Well, we all said yes, Chad, Adam and I had played about 3 other bands previously so we knew each other well and we were comfortable and everybody was professional about it so we said let’s do it.

Doctor T:  OK, let’s look at something else. I know what direction I would classify the track I listened to but what direction do you see the music taking?

Kassi:  Well, I would call it pop synth, melodic metal, but I don’t know that there’s a single category that it fits into. A specific subgenera. This single, I do want to say this, in terms of our music we’re going to have basically all the same components of guitar, base, keys, voice and drums but each song is going to have it’s own personality. Like this one is very uptempo, major key positive deriving kind of sound. Some of the other songs might have a little more of an Epica flavor to it. Other sounds, well, we’re not trying to aim at one specific sound. So what we write, we just want to do it justice.

Chad:  I think we hope to not be pigeon holed right away. I think a lot of albums in metal suffer from same songitis. With the bands I’ve been in I always want to create a journey for the listener so that one song takes you in one direction and another goes a different way, there’s hills and valleys and hopefully you’re going around the world in the process of listening to the album. So the second song we’re currently working on has a completely different sound than the one you just heard. We’ll see but that’s my hope.

Doctor T:  I guess the next question is I’ve never heard you (Chad) sing before just now. So what’s your involvement from a vocal perspective going to be, are we going to do two vocalists all the way through or what?

Kassi:  There is this one idea, I don’t know whether or not we’re going to go through with it, but there is one song we’re working on and my ultimate goal is if we get the formatted song right there’s verse chorus, verse chorus, maybe another chorus at the end. I’ll be singing the verses, Chad will take the main chorus, Joop will take another chorus, actually it would be Chad and Chory taking one chorus, Joop will be taking the second chorus and the last chorus I want all three of those guys layered on top of each other because Chad would be singing one kind of melodic rhythmic line while Joop would be singing another similar line. Chory would do some screaming in there and then all together it would be a cacophony of testosterone that would make me melt.

Chad:  Yes, that’s what’s been missing. A lot of the bands I worked with everyone in the band sang. Even if you want to go back as far as the Eagles everyone of those guys was a good lead singer in their own right. And I think a lot of bands are missing that. I’m a big Galactic Cowboys, Kings X fan and all those guys are great singers in their own right. I always wanted to be in a band where I didn’t necessarily have to be the lead singer, although I have been. But where I can sing and still feel like there’s other vocal talent around me and clearly, I can sit back and take a back seat to her.

Doctor T:  So, we’re not talking about 2 vocalists, we’re talking about 4 vocalists.

Cory:  I think it goes back to what suits the song. It’s like a song by song basis. It’s what the song requires. We didn’t go in the studio on the first track expecting Chad to sing. That’s how we did the chorus, we decided it needed to be there so we put it there.

Chad:  Going into the studio is a creative process so sometimes you go in with one idea and come out with a totally different product. We may go in with only Kassi’s vocals in mind but when you get the base track, the core of the sound down, you start thinking “what if we season it with, right and you go in and try different things like maybe it needs another keyboard part from Joop, maybe it needs a lead guitar part or maybe what it needs is a 4 part choir”.

Mercy Isle 

 

Kassi:  And personally, I used to be in choirs. I was in the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra Chorus for a while. Nothing really grips me or sucks me into a song when I sing quite as much as when I hear other people singing with me and I hear it working together and interlocking.

Doctor T:  I know all of you a little bit and you’re all very good in live performance. A lot of bands want either live or recording careers. What’s your goal, how do you see this working out?

Kassi:  Basically, I do want us to be a live band. But I don’t want us to be an every weekend live band playing in a dinky bar to a bunch of Americans who may not appreciate our particular style. The main goal is I want to make it really worth my guy’s time. These guys have other things in their lives. It takes a lot of work with everyone’s schedule to perform and I don’t want to waste their time. We’re focusing on festivals. We’re targeting bigger venues where we can play before people who really want to hear us. We have two festivals we’re currently on but have not been announced, I’ll talk about them when it’s appropriate. They should announce this Spring.

Cory:  I think we can say this much. They’re not in Wisconsin.

Doctor T:  So, the next obvious question is what are you going to do with Joop, are you going to sample him in or what?

Kassi:  Well, for local shows, for warm up gigs, like maybe in Madison, so we can talk to radio stations, it would be sampled, with all the electronics and laptops and all that. But, for the big festivals, Joop is going to be flying out here for it.

Doctor T:  Well, that’s interesting. Let me ask you one final question, then we can all eat, drink and BS. What’s the overall goal of the project?

Cory:  Well, the reason we wanted to do this, basically, was to put together a band we could take back to MFVF when Val and those guys bring it back on line again after taking this year off. Again, it goes back to the last MFVF where so many people asked for Kassi to put a band together. Those were the people who really wanted to see Kassi in a band. So the goal, ultimately, was to cater to those fans, to say, “OK, we have a band with Kassi at the helm to play at MFVF.”

Kassi:  There’s no promise that we would get to MFVF but there was a demand expressed so hearing it kind of lit a fire under me. But, if it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen. But it did bring to light how much I really want to have a band and how much I really do want to work with people who are on the same page who have massive amounts of talent. I’ve respected Cory for years and this is a chance to rope this guy in, to have Chad who is a fantastic base player and that’s not just because I’m married to him, Adam has some serious talent and the chemistry between those three guys. I couldn’t have asked for anything more perfect. I love Joop’s disgustingly perverted personality, his sense of humor, I absolutely love it. The absolute goal, I mean, yea, we want to play festivals, we want to have a good time. But ultimately, we want to be proud of what we’re doing, we want to be in love with what we’re doing. And, at this point and time we are in love with the project.

Doctor T:  Well, if that first track I heard is any indication, you’re clearly on the right track. I’m really looking forward to hearing much more. Thanks Kassi, Chad, Chory and Joop somewhere in the wilds of Amsterdam. Sonic Cathedral is looking forward to moving this project along with any help we can provide. And, personally, all I can say is, it’s about time.

Now, where’s that waitress, I need another Bloody Mary.

 

Mercy Isle 

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