Yesterday we visited with Théresè Lanz, vocalist/guitarist for Canadian noise doom warriors Mares of Thrace. We talked about the band’s excellent new album “The Pilgrimage” and their new home at Sonic Unyon, who have put out other notable metal releases as of late from bands such as Augury, Untimely Demise, and some little-known cosmic thrash band called … Voivod.
Today, we dig a little deeper into the record as well as what it was like working with Sanford Parker at Engine Studios in Chicago, Théresè’s longtime musical partnership and friendship with drummer Stefani MacKichan (this is their third band together), and the representation of female artists in the metal world. As you hopefully learned yesterday, Théresè doesn’t pull punches or opt for the politically safe way to say things, which made our conversation that much more fun.
At the end are links to the Mares web site, as well as links to buy their devastating new record. If you don’t buy it, I have it on good authority you might wind up buried beneath a whiptail scorpion (threw up a bit in my mouth just typing that) someday soon. You don’t want that –they don’t want that, right? Thanks again to Théresè for taking time do the interview and for not screaming at me when I coughed every five seconds.
Meat Mead Metal: OK, after you sent me the album a few months back, you noted that the song “Nazi Ballerina” (now called “The Perpetrator”) would have to get a name change. What went down with that?
Théresè Lanz: It definitely wasn’t a controversy, and I don’t want to single out Sonic Unyon as some evil manipulators who were trying to cramp me creatively. Because nothing could be further from the truth. They just felt that if the song was a single, it should not have an inflammatory title in it. But you know, that’s not what my mom would call “a hill to die on.” It wasn’t an issue for me to dig my heels in and make a stink about. So I changed the title, the video is ready, and theoretically everyone’s happy. But the title is about a Nazi ballerina who was a spy for the Nazis in World War II, and I enjoyed that the main riff in that tune, and especially with Stef’s playing, is graceful but hideous and evil. I imagine that’s how a Nazi ballerina would be.
MMM: Oh, those poor Nazi ballerinas.
TL: (laughs) Yeah, and after they told me it was a little inflammatory, Palmerston immediately sent me an e-mail apologizing and said that don’t worry, no one thinks that a band with a Filipino woman in it is going to be espousing Nazi ideals. But hey, they’re giving me money to make songs, so they get to weigh in once in a while.
MMM: Now, you worked with Sanford Parker on this record. What was that like?
TL: That guy, I just want to hug that guy. (laughs) He’s just a huggable guy. It was awesome. We could not have wished for a better producer. He had a really good instinct for reading my mind. Like I’d say, “Can you make the guitar sound chocolatier, or can you make an electronic sound that goes (makes wooshing sound)?” and he’d just do it. That whole experience was pretty magical. Walking through Wicker Park in the November sunshine to the studio and drinking craft beer and eating real tacos, because you can’t get those where I live, and going to see Zoroaster in the evening. It’s a great city. I’m really excited about moving there.
MMM: Going back to the label interest, were you surprised the band generated such interest?
TL: I was a little surprised. I was flattered. When some of the more commercial metal labels came sniffing around, I was baffled. Without shit-talking anyone in specific, I thought we would have been a really strange fit on some of the more commercially inclined record labels. And I wasn’t particularly into their rosters.
MMM: You and Stefani have been friends for a long time and have played music together forever. Talk about your creative relationship. It would seem by this point you must finish each other’s sentences.
TL: Yeah, I mean, we have such a long-established dynamic that it’s pretty automatic. But Mares of Thrace is the first band where she ever wrote. She doesn’t write guitar riffs, but she writes … I think of them as drum riffs. (laughs) And I’ll write stuff to that. That’s sort of a new part of our dynamic, and that’s nice. It’s hard to be a sole writer. Writing on a deadline blows, and I’m not the most prolific writer anyway, so when someone else pitches in, it’s great. Also, other bands I was in, someone could come up with a riff and no one else would be into it. We don’t have that luxury, so it’s great. (laughs) I never have to throw out a riff because I’m really excited about it and some fucking Debbie Downer isn’t into it in my band. So yeah, we don’t have to think too hard about things, and they just happen. It’s like old married people who have been together for 40 years having sex. I’m sure that’ll be used someday.
MMM: (laughs) That’s going to be used in this story. Are you kidding? Now, what would she say if she heard you say that?
TL: (laughs) She’d probably agree!
MMM: Do you pay attention to reviews of your work and whatnot, or is that something that you don’t pay a lot of attention to?
TL: See, this all goes back to my tendency to befriend metal writers and our interviews turn into hang-out sessions. (laughs) Um, the ones I pay attention to are (the writers) who I know have good taste. Then I want to know if they like my record or not. Those are the only ones I care about. Like, if someone’s favorite band is Trivium and they give our record a 2 out of 10, that’s cool. (laughs)
MMM: Yeah, you’d have to consider the source.
TL: Really the only thing that bums me out is when (writers) use a different language to review us or a different vocabulary to review us than they would a band with dudes in it.
MMM: OK, I’m glad you said that. I feel like it’s 2012, should we be past the gender issue by now?
TL: Well, it’s the vocabulary thing. In one review, we were referred to as “fuck-a-licious hotties.” (laughs)
MMM: There goes my headline.
TL: (laughs) Look, I like when people say nice things or people think we’re cute or whatever, but for God’s sake, you would never say that about dudes in a band?
MMM: OK, now, you did the Revolver “Hottest Chicks in Metal” monthly feature, but yours was totally different than everyone else’s.
TL: I was fully clothed from my collar bones to my wrists and to my ankles, and I talked about video games the whole time.
MMM: Now, whenever they asked you to do it, did you want to do it right away, did you go back and forth?
TL: I was incredibly conflicted about it. The reason I did it is Josh Eldridge (publicist, now with The Musebox) said it was good exposure. I don’t think it was good exposure. For starters, it said KEN mode. That’s the name that was big and huge in the article, and that’s not even my band. And I’m sure that having one of the “hottest chicks in metal” is not what KEN mode wants to be known for either. My filling in for that band definitely got referred to as a gimmick. But, you know, what should I be to be perceived as authentic? What would they prefer I be?
MMM: You’re probably supposed to have a penis.
TL: Like a fat, hairy dude? I don’t want to be a fat, hairy dude. No, but chiefly what it did was a bunch of dudes with beards and bad taste in music and no friends then friend-requested me on Facebook.
MMM: Do you regret doing it?
TL: Some women I hugely respect and admire did it, and some women I hugely respect and admire declined it. If I had to do it over, would I … oh, I don’t know. I don’t know.
MMM: What if they asked you to do it again?
TL: It depends. When people like Laura (Pleasants) from Kylesa declines it, it’s because she doesn’t need free press. My band still needs free press. Ultimately, it comes down to pragmatism, and one day I’d like to not be pragmatic about ideals. That said, if they said they were going to pick my wardrobe, I’d say, “Get fucked.”
For more on the band, go here: http://www.maresofthrace.com/
To buy “The Pilgrimage,” go here: http://www.sonicunyon.com/metal/artists/mares%20of%20thrace
For more on the label, go here: http://www.sonicunyon.com/metal