Christian Mistress’ Christine Davis talks new album, stalking, one-eyed dog (Pt. 1)

Next week, Christian Mistress will release their awesome new record “Possession,” their first for Relapse. As strong as their debut “Agony & Opium” (20 Buck Spin) was, their new one is even better. The songs are catchier, the guitar work is scintillating and memorable, and the vocals, as always, are smoky and tough. We got a chance to talk with singer Christine Davis, and things didn’t go according to any script. Look, so many times when I do interviews, they’re kind of by-the-numbers and a little business-like, because often these artists have talked to so many people already or are so on message that it’s hard to paint outside the numbers.

Not Davis. From the start, she made it clear she isn’t terribly interested in doing some stodgy Q&A by the books, and I was more than pleased to hear this. That led to a 45-minute conversation that bled into her next interview slot (sorry, whoever had to wait) and she was honest, amusing, challenging, and at times, weird. Davis’ deadpan delivery when she’s joking around can take you off guard, but that all seems to be part of her charm. Because we talked so long and covered so much ground, I’m breaking up this interview into two parts, the second of which is planned for tomorrow. Thanks again to Davis for taking so much time and doing the type of interview that makes what I do fun.

Meat Mead Metal: Well, we’re here to talk about the new album, unless, of course, you don’t want to talk about anything having to do with the band.

Christine Davis: (laughs) Yes, let’s do that. I love French movies, mostly from the ’60s and ’70s, and Christian Mistress just did a video for the song “Pentagram and Crucifix” off the new record. It was filmed on 16 mm film, black and white, and it’s going to be really killer. I’m really excited about that. I’m a total film lover. I also like when interviewers ask me questions about things other than the band. I mean, I love to do interviews, I love Christian Mistress, I love the new record, but it’s also fun for me to have story time. (laughs) But yeah, the new record’s great. “Possession.” I know that’s what you want to talk about.

MMM: No, seriously, throw all that stuff in. There are going to be traditional questions, bit I’d love to go off topic as often as we can. In fact, I did an interview once with a Christian metalcore band for a magazine, and at the end of the piece, the dude wanted to pray with me.

CD: I ordered a burrito once in Portland, and the lady came around the counter, the owner, and put her arm around me, which was really intrusive, and asked me to pray with her. My old band had a van that we got for free that said Baptist Senior Citizens on the side, so she decided that I was Christian because I had pulled up in the band van. This 18-passenger band from the ’80s. Yeah, that’s awkward.

MMM: But what do you do, you know? Do you just say no? She probably meant well.

CD: I was just so stunned that I just stood there kind of going, “Ahhhhh, OK.” But I’d seen her often and I knew she was, like, this brainwashed Christian lady who runs a burrito shop. But yeah, I didn’t go back in there for a couple years after that. I took a break. This is getting too weird. (laughs) We’re going to spend some time apart.

MMM: You could have just sent someone else in.

CD: Yeah. But she thought I was the driver for the senior citizen Baptist van and that I was a backslider because I was a metalhead. So she was trying to help me reconnect with God or something. But enough about her!

MMM: OK, well, let’s get into the new record. It sounds just amazing. Are you happy with the results?

CD: Yeah, totally. We got a lot more time to spend on “Possession” than “Agony & Opium.” “Agony & Opium” is a record that we love, but we didn’t put as much attention on it. For “Possession,” we pre-recorded the songs on a four-track just to hear what they sounded like and get an idea as to whether all the songs sounded good together. So we had more time to think about what we were doing and more time to plan guitar overdubs and that sort of thing. So we’re really happy with how it came out. It was exactly what we were going for.

MMM: Yeah, you can tell from listening to it that it has a better sound. It’s not overproduced or polished or anything. It still has that vintage sound, but certainly it’s richer sounding than “Agony & Opium.”

CD: We wanted the guitars to sound heavier, that was our main goal, so we chose a studio (Louder Studios, owned by Tim Green, ex-The Fucking Champs) where we could do that. We weren’t looking for an overly polished, sort of current, digital sound, and we also didn’t have a ton of time. We had 10 days to record everything and mix it. It was certainly more of a low-budget record compared to other things that get recorded these days. But we took the same spirit into the studio (as for “Agony & Opium”) in that we recorded everything on analog and did things the way we did in the past, but this time we had 24 tracks instead of four. Also we were away from our home town, because the studio was in California, and there was no cell phone reception. We stayed there the whole time and hung out in the sun, which is totally different because it’s always fucking raining where we live. It was like band vacation. It was good.

MMM: OK, as far as it being band vacation, what kind of fun stuff did you do besides recording?

CD: Well, Tim has a pool, and we hung out with his one-eyed dog a lot.

MMM: Woah!

CD: Yeah, he runs in counter-clockwise circles because he can’t run in a straight line. Yeah, the Chompfrey. And we went to the Yuba River, which is so unreal. It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen. So he swam in Tim’s pool in the morning, we swam off our hangovers, recorded as late as we could, and just hung out. Really, we didn’t do much more than recording. We were all focused on getting a good recording, but it was a nice place to be.

MMM: Can we go back to the one-eyed dog for a moment?

CD: Sure, yeah. Chompfrey. The Chompfrey. The one-eyed dog. He runs in circles. He tries to be a lifeguard. He likes to bark at people when they’re jumping into the pool, and then he runs in circles. But he won’t jump in to try to save them because he’s a really little dog. But what he will do is lose his balance, slip and fall into the pool, and get really disoriented. He’s a lot of fun.

MMM: What kind of dog was he?

CD: I don’t know. I’m not really up on my dog breeds, but he was a little, white, curly-haired dog.

MMM: OK, well back to Christian Mistress. Your vocals really stand out on your albums. And in this day and age, there are so many singers that just scream front to back. Obviously you don’t to do that. What’s your background as far as singing? Are you trained or is it just something you picked up?

CD: My vocal training is strictly from being in bands, so that’s a form of voice training, I think. I definitely notice my voice has gotten stronger over the years, as in I can talk with a normal voice after playing shows. It used to be that after playing a show, I wouldn’t be able to talk the next day. I was hoarse. I definitely think the way I sing in Christian Mistress is an effect of the music having so much of a voice to itself. The guitar parts, they’re so melodic and there’s so much going on that screaming and being gruff doesn’t really translate, especially for a recording. Sometimes that kind of emotion does come out live. But I think for this band, my vocals fit the music really well. That’s how we all feel anyway.

MMM: Yeah, but you do hear a lot of bands that play these parts that seem to need a clean voice and they scream over it anyway, and you go, “No, no, no no, that’s not right.”

CD: Well, yeah, but I also feel very strongly that music is art, and there should not be rules in art. Maybe someday there will be a place for (screaming) in Christian Mistress. I don’t know. We’re not going to push ourselves into any one place creatively.

MMM: A lot of people have put the New Wave of British Heavy Metal label on the band’s sound. How do you feel about that? Did you grow up listening to that style of music?

CD: I grew up listening to really true heavy metal and really true heavy punk. I don’t really know what NWOBHM is. I think it’s just a term to describe bands that were playing really heavy punk-influenced metal in the ’70s. I think it’s not very descriptive, and I don’t like the term.

MMM: I guess I always think of it along the lines of those first two Iron Maiden albums, and it’s always funny to hear Steve Harris talk about that and say they were reacting against punk. But it’s like, no, those two albums are very punk rock.

CD: Yeah, I love the Paul Di’Anno era of Iron Maiden. I mean, there’s no secret that we love those (types of) bands. We never set out to try to emulate anyone, and I think that comes across in the songs that we write.

MMM: Another thing that’s been attached to the band is the endorsement from Fenriz of Dark Throne. What did that mean to the band, because people really seemed to start paying attention after he said that?

CD: What it did for me is it made me realize there are a lot of people out there who pay attention to that stuff and who care about who says what about what. For me, it opened up my eyes to the international metal scene, actually. So that was kind of interesting. But other than that, I think the labels that put out our records have grabbed onto it more than we have. We thought it was cool for about a week, then it was like, OK. I mean, I’m sure there are a lot of people who are very interested in what he has to say, but I don’t know if it does anything for us.

MMM: Something unique about Christian Mistress is the band doesn’t have a huge online presence. There’s a fairly bare-bones web site, but it doesn’t seem like the band is as interested in social media as everyone else. Are you just not a fan of the medium?

CD: Our main reason for not having fan pages like that is it just seems like it’s too much clutter. It just seemed tedious. None of us wanted to take the time to set one up. We were like, “You do it. No, you do it. No, you do it. No, you do it.” So we just decided we weren’t doing any of that. We don’t do anything we don’t want to do. It’s just that simple. We’re not going to do anything that doesn’t interest us. I think it’s nice to have a place where shows can be posted, but anything more than that is just going to be clutter that we have to deal with on the dead-end street that is society. (laughs )

MMM: But don’t you realize everyone deserves to know every little detail of everyone’s lives?

CD: Yeah, I’m sure they still can. Have you ever heard of stalking?

MMM: That’s a lost art.

CD: I know. I’m into it. I’m for it.

MMM: Have you stalked anyone yourself?

CD: No. (laughs) I just think that My Space and Facebook are like a legal form of stalking.

MMM: Do you get into any Internet stuff on your own, just on your own time away from the band?

CD: Not at all.

MMM: Doesn’t interest you?

CD: No. I don’t even have the Internet at my house.

MMM: What about TV? Do watch anything on TV?

CD: I don’t have a TV.

MMM: What do you do all day?

CD: Nothing. I just sit and stare out the window. It’s interesting.

MMM: What does that do for you?

CD: Nothing. I’m really bored all the time and I don’t know what to do with myself. I sit around hoping someone will bring me a television or a computer, damn it.

MMM: You don’t know what you’re missing.

CD: It’s horrible. I have the worst life. (laughs)

MMM: You miss all the celebrity divorces and marriages. How do you live without all of that?

CD: I have my own personal celebrity divorces and marriages to focus on.

MMM: You should write about them.

CD: I know. It would be great. But, no, seriously, what do I do? I watch movies sometimes, but I don’t have cable or anything. I’m gone so much from home that it wouldn’t make sense for me to be paying for that. I also have another band I practice with sometimes, and I have Christian Mistress, so I’m pretty busy.

***

Come back tomorrow for the second part of our interview with Christine Davis. We’ll get more in-depth into some of the songs on the record, how she handles touring, and what she does when she isn’t fronting Christian Mistress. You might be surprised to find out the answer to that last one.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.christianmistress.com/

To buy “Possession,” go here: http://www.relapse.com/search_result.php?search_by=all&q=christian+mistress&x=11&y=6

To get both CM LPs together at a low package price, go here: http://www.20buckspin.com/site/christian-mistress-possession-lp-in-stock-get-both-cm-lps-for-24-99/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.relapse.com/