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Weeping Silence Interview

Weeping Silence Interview
Performed in November 2011
Weeping Silence

Come and meet Weeping Silence, the atmospheric metal band from Malta that you undoubtedly will be hearing a LOT about in 2012! It might come as a surprise that the band has been around for nearly 15 years, has three full-length albums under their belts, and is featured on both volumes of the Des Filles et des Riffs compilation albums. Truly a hidden treasure that is still largely underground, perhaps because of years-long delays between recording each album and releasing it -- making their albums something of a time capsule, rather than a reflection of Weeping Silence’s current sound.

But a welcome change is in the wind ... Weeping Silence is in the process of recording their new album, which will be released in 2012! Sonic Cathedral’s Robin Stryker sat down with vocalist Rachel Grech and bassist Sean Pollacco to chat about their upcoming album, their very special guest vocalist, strange hobbies, and much more. We feel so honored that Weeping Silence shared their exciting news with Sonic Cathedral readers first. Dive in for a closer look!

Robin:  I have to admit that Weeping Silence is the first Maltese band I’ve heard. Could you tell us a little bit about the Republic of Malta?

Rachel:  Well, Malta is an island in the middle of the Mediterranean. The Republic of Malta is an archipelago with three inhabited islands -- Malta, Gozo and Comino -- but Malta is the biggest island. (To Sean) How many inhabitants are there?

Sean:  Around half a million.

Rachel:  Half a million, so we’re quite small! (laughs) But we’re quite central ... a lot of the economy is generated through tourism. We get a lot of foreign students coming over to learn English. We also have a lot of cultural heritage sites.

Robin:  Sean, I noticed that you play the fretless bass, which is something that I typically associate with jazz, funk and fusion, instead of metal. Why is that your instrument of choice?

Sean:  I’ve been playing the bass for about 16 years now. I switched to a fretless bass about 10 years ago because I was into jazz a lot and had a second band with whom I used to play jazz with for occasions. I thought of using it with a metal band to bring in something a little bit different.

Robin:  What different sound does the absence of frets give to the music?

Sean:  The bass has a deeper sound when it’s fretless and the sustain is better, so I can fill in the slower parts of the music with lesser notes but with a boomier sound to them. I think it gives it a little bit of a jazzy edge, which I prefer to a fretted bass. Although when I play live, I tend to use the fretted bass because it’s more of a precision instrument for playing metal live. But in the studio, I tend to use the fretless mostly.

Weeping Silence

Robin:  Rachel, you were actually the first female metal vocalist in Malta. What was that like?

Rachel:  (laughs) In the beginning, it was a bit daunting to get up on stage with all these guys, but it got better … I got used to it! But now there are quite a few other female fronted metal bands on the island, so I’ve got company now.

Robin:  It’s always good to have company! You’ve both been with Weeping Silence for more than 10 years now. For each of you, what has been your biggest highlight and biggest lowlight with the band?

Rachel:  I think the low points are always when the line-up changes. You always think, “Aw, are we still going to manage to carry on?” I think those are some of the low points. High points are obviously when you play live to a good crowd, and for me personally, our record deals. Those were all good things for us.

Sean:  I work mostly on the international aspect of the band, so my objectives are always to get the band on the international map. My highest points were signing with Sleaszy Rider Records in 2006 for the release of the first album, End of an Era, and signing with Ravenheart Music in 2010 for the release of Theatre of Life. Those were nice! I think another high point was our first overseas gigs, when we played in the U.K. with To-Mera and other bands. That was nice too!

Robin:  Was it during your tour in the U.K. that you got in contact with Dave Smith at Ravenheart Music?

Rachel:  No, actually I had been in contact with Phil Wooldridge, who does reviews for Ravenheart. I had been in contact with him via Facebook and MySpace before we went to England, and then Dave and Phil came to see us play in Birmingham. (To Sean) Birmingham?

Sean:  Yes, it was Birmingham. They distributed the CD for us in the U.K. and came to that concert.

Rachel:  So actually it was through Facebook and the internet that we got to know them.

Robin:  Since this was your first tour outside Malta, what do you wish you had packed for the tour, but didn’t?

Rachel:  (laughs) Oh dear, that’s a difficult one! Hmmm …

Sean:  Beer!

Rachel:  Okay, Sean said “beer”, so I’ll say “biscuits” then, because we NEVER had time to get any food. (laughs) The places where we were playing and the take-aways that were open at about 3 o’clock in the morning, when we were ready from our music, were mostly Indian curry houses …the food was really, really, really hot!!! (all laugh)

Weeping Silence

Robin:  Let’s get back to talking about your albums. I certainly noticed quite a difference between End of an Era and Theatre of Life. Please tell us about each of those albums, and how Weeping Silence’s sound evolved over time. (There was a previous album with male vocals, but we’ll leave that one aside.)

Rachel:  With regards to End of an Era, the songs are a bit longer, the vocals were softer, and the sound is a bit more doomy. Whereas with Theatre of Life, the songs are a bit shorter and more up-tempo, and the vocals are a bit more varied. There are some soprano vocals in there as well.

Sean:  The first album had a doom concept, and was an in memoriam album. We were coming out from our doom roots. The second album, Theatre of Life, is a gothic metal oriented album, which we experimented with at the time. It was composed in 2004 and 2005, quite a long time ago when the gothic metal was at its best, I think, and released a bit late because we had record label complications. But Theatre of Life was an experiment, and we enjoyed doing it as well.

Robin:  I notice that you used “experiment” in describing your current album. Is Theatre of Life indicative of the direction that Weeping Silence is headed, or was it truly a one-off experiment?

Sean:  Well, Theatre of Life was an album composed in a gothic metal feel, which we enjoyed very much at that time. We still like gothic metal, but we’re going a bit forward into the style that is most listened to at the moment by the band members, which is doomier and heavier. We introduced a male vocalist, Joe, to add that extra little bit onto the newer style that we are recording now. I think that the newer compositions are less gothic metal than Theatre of Life. But still, Theatre of Life is part of our musical experience … our musical life. It was a good experience!

Robin:  Lyrically, although Theatre of Life has darkly poetic imagery, on many of the songs, there is a rather hopeful undertone. Is that something that will continue, or will the next album also have gloomier lyrics?

Rachel:  As you said, we talk about darker experiences; however, with the light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak.

Robin:  Where are you in the process of recording Weeping Silence’s new album?

Rachel:  We finished the recording, and we’re in the mixing and mastering stage. We are doing it with a French studio, Tower Studios. The producer is Brett Caldas Lima, who is a VERY patient guy! (laughs)

Sean:  We moved out of the recording studios in Malta for the mixing and mastering because Malta is so small that we don’t have many studios to choose from. So we recorded here, but we’re mixing it at a studio that is more familiar with our style. Tower Studios gave us the opportunity to do something in a more professional way. I think it’s coming out quite well in fact!

Robin:  Tower Studio is mixing To-Mera’s upcoming album, and has done Arch Enemy, Devin Townsend and a host of other well-known bands. What do you think having a studio like that mixing your next record will add?

Sean:  Well, it’s quite a big thing; isn’t it? But yeah, Brett is a great guy, and he gives us insight into what can be done to improve the sound. That was something that was a little bit missing in Malta. It gives us that professional edge into the sound of the album. I think that Tower Studios is making the album sound like an ALBUM, if you know what I mean, rather than just a recording. It was something that was missing, at least in our experience, here in Malta. Our previous albums are well-recorded, I’d say, but Tower Studios will take the album to a different level, which is what we’re hoping for after all.

Weeping Silence

Robin:  What was the thinking behind adding Joe for growling vocals, which is quite a departure from Weeping Silence’s current sound?

Rachel:  Well, we wanted something a little bit more powerful, and we wanted that distinction between the sweet female vocals and more aggressive vocals.

Sean:  I think that the new compositions have a more aggressive tone to them, and the lyrics tend to have these conversations with dual tones. The second vocalist allows that to happen -- the interaction between two people, which you can’t do with one vocalist. But now with Joe and Rachel singing together, there is that interaction, and the lyrics are more pronounced. I think that is working well, in fact.

Robin:  In the next evolution of Weeping Silence, will you still be a female-fronted band, or will it be more like Draconian or Trail of Tears, where the vocals are roughly equal between male and female vocals?

Rachel:  I think Weeping Silence will still ultimately be a female-fronted band. Perhaps there will be certain songs that have slightly more male vocals, but ultimately we are a female-fronted band.

Robin:  Have you chosen an album title yet for your upcoming release? A better question might be: could you tell us the title, if you had one?

Sean:  (Rachel laughs) We are keeping it a secret for now! We have a short list of titles, but we want to listen to the album mixed and mastered before we choose a title. I think it will make a difference.

Robin:  The upcoming album will have guest vocals on it. What can you tell us about that?

Rachel:  The guest vocalist for the album is Anders Jacobsson of the band, DRACONIAN! We’re very pleased to have him collaborate with us on some songs.

Robin:  Will he be on a single track or on several tracks?

Rachel:  He will be on two tracks. The names of the tracks I can give you. The first one is called “Love Lies Bleeding,” and the second one is called “The Search Within.”

Robin:  How did Weeping Silence get hooked up with Anders Jacobsson?

Rachel:  Anders actually contacted us via our Facebook, mine and Joe’s in particular. You know, we were very excited, when one day we received a friend request from Anders. (laughs) After that, we started speaking a little on Facebook, and then we kind of asked him: “We’re doing this new album. Would you like to record some vocals with us?” So that’s how it came about.

Robin:  That is exciting news!

Rachel:  It is!

Weeping Silence

Robin:  Did you collaborate in person or record separately in your respective home countries?

Rachel:  We recorded here in Malta, whereas Anders did his in Sweden.

Sean:  We sent him the songs via Tower Studios, and he sent the vocals back to the studio, where Brett did the effects and the mixing of his vocals onto those two songs. We are in the process of listening to the final product. And to be honest, we just received his vocals recently, so we’re still in the process of listening to them.

Robin:  On previous albums, creating the compositions was a joint effort of all the members. Did all the members participate in creating the upcoming album, and if so, how in the world does that work when there are SEVEN of you?

Rachel:  Yes, we all contribute to the music. And as I said, there are seven of us, so there are always seven opinions about everything! I think you have to know what direction you are going in, and you have to agree on a musical direction. But then, you have to be a bit patient, listen to everyone’s ideas, and decide what to go for. (laughs).

Sean:  Rachel and Joe give the lyrical contribution, that is for sure, and the vocal arrangements. The band meets a lot as well … sometimes without the vocalists … to do some basic compositions, and then we listen to the lyrical ideas on various compositions. So it’s not always seven members meeting together, if you know what I mean. Sometimes it’s five or four. But at the end, we come together and we compose stuff. I think it is working, so we’ll continue on this path, I guess.

Robin:  Now for some random trivia! Okay, weird hobbies or secret vices?

Rachel:  Hmmm …

Sean:  I think I should start first ... I have a snake collection at home. That’s weird!

Rachel:  What kind of snakes?

Sean:  Boas, mainly. I’ve been in that hobby for seven years now, or eight. That’s me.

Robin:  That’s going to be hard to top! Rachel, whatcha got?

Rachel:  (laughs) Not as adventurous as that, I’m afraid! I love reading … I love all vampire novels such as Anne Rice, Laurell K Hamilton, Charlaine Harris, just to name a few... That’s my interest.

Sean:  True Blood, THAT’S your interest!

Rachel:  I do like all those kinds of things! (laughs)

Weeping Silence

Robin:  What would you be giddy with joy to see in your Christmas stocking this year?

Rachel:  I’d like the new Nightwish CD. That should be coming out this week, I think.

Sean:  Is that a hint? (Rachel laughs)

Robin:  And Sean, you?

Sean:  Hellfest tickets or MFVF tickets, and PLANE tickets too!

Robin:  What bands are each of you listening to the most right now?

Rachel:  I listen a lot to Within Temptation, Therion, and Draconian.

Sean:  I’m listening to Opeth’s last album, Heritage, which I enjoy a lot. Katatonia’s last album I enjoyed very much, too. I’d say Paradise Lost, I’m enjoying that as well.

Rachel:  We had Paradise Lost in Malta earlier this year, which was really good!

Sean:  They were good, yeah!

Robin:  Getting back to more serious topics, End of an Era and Theatre of Life got GREAT reviews, yet Weeping Silence is still relatively unknown even among hardcore female-fronted metal fans. What do you think it will take to get to that next level of public awareness?

Rachel:  Well, hopefully this next album that we’re going to release in 2012 … hopefully that will help gain us more recognition.

Sean:  I think that our new recording is fresh and should go down well.

Rachel:  And also, if we were able to play some more international festivals … that would help as well because people, who have never heard of you, see you up on stage and they say: “Oh, we like these guys, so we’ll follow them.”

Weeping Silence

Robin:  What is on your dream list of festivals that you would love to play?

Rachel:  Okay, that’s an easy one. We’d LOVE to play Metal Female Voices Festival in Belgium, the MFVF! And there is a big one in America as well, Flight of the Valkyries.

Sean:  There are also other festivals. M’Era Luna would be nice. We should be playing Doom Over Kiev in October of next year. Doom Over Kiev is quite big in Eastern Europe, and Draconian played last October at that festival. That is the first festival we have confirmed for next year. I’d like to add a few more of those! (laughs)

We also have some gigs in Italy -- not festivals, but gigs. We should be joining the Italian band, The Shiver, for some concerts there. We brought them over to Malta this year. They are reciprocating, and we’ll go to Italy next year.

Robin:  Will it be Weeping Silence’s first time playing in Italy?

Sean:  Yeah, it will be our first time playing in Italy.

Robin:  Italian crowds are supposed to be great fun at metal gigs!

Sean:  Really? I hope so! We’ll do our best. We’re looking forward to that! I think we’ll be playing the Italy gigs in February or March of 2012 … we’re still coordinating the gigs with Faith of The Shiver. In between the Italy gigs and the Kiev festival, that summer, we’ll be playing some international concerts hopefully. There will be local concerts for sure … perhaps four local gigs … but we hope to complement them with foreign concerts.

Robin:  Rachel and Sean, we have about reached the end of our time together. As always, the last words belong to you. What would you like to tell your fans?

Rachel:  I’d like to say “thank you” to you for the opportunity to have this interview. Perhaps people could give Weeping Silence a listen, check out our Facebook page and website, and listen to our albums. (laughs) Hopefully, they will like our music, and it will make them happy.

Sean:  They should also look out for our new offering next year. We’d LOVE to know what people think, so they should visit our Facebook page to see updates of the new recording. We will be uploading some videos of the studio sessions next month, and briefing the fans on the progress of the recording. So early next year, the fans can log onto Facebook, take a look at what the band is doing, and comment on that. Obviously, once we have the album in hand, we’ll send it off to Sonic Cathedral, and we’d be keen to know what YOU think of it.

Weeping Silence

Robin:  We wish you all good success, and thank you so much for talking with me today! A warm “thank you” also to Dave Smith at Ravenheart Music for setting up the interview. We love ya, Sir Dave!!!

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