© ROCK METAL INC
Interview By Kimmo Tattari/ April 2010
Music of the Metal Gods has inspired many excellent cover bands through the globe, but apart from blasting out the music with full force and steaming fury, this one has a twist most Priest tributes can’t claim to possess; meet Judas Priestess – A tough as nails Priest tribute from U.S., consisting solely of women. Sparked your interest? Read on!
Welcome to the Steel Mill! Let’s start with introducing the band members. All of you have also had some other bands or projects before Judas Priestess.
Band members are:
MilitiA-vocals, D Mercedes-lead guitar, Grace “Maiden of Metal”-2nd guitar, Gyda Gash-Bass, and JoJo Tubeato-Drums
D: I had just spent almost 2½ years in the all-girl Crüe trib Girls Girls Girls but left to start this band. Right before that, I was recording my songs and thrilled to be working on them with Rock & Roll Hall of Famer LaLa Brooks, the former lead singer of the popular 60’s girl singing group The Crystals but a band did not gel. Prior to that, I had completely dropped out of the music world after disbanding my underground NYC punk/rock group The Stimulators, and became involved in wildlife conservation and animal rights, researching the UFO phenomenon, and a visual artist.
© Todd Gay
MilitiA: I currently have an original hard rock band +SWEAR ON YOUR LIFE+ in which I’m the lead singer/ songwriter. Most people recognize me from hosting and VJ’ing on FUSE Music Television. I have toured as the leading female vocalist in Dee Snider’s heavy metal horror orchestra, VAN HELSING’S CURSE. I have sung backup for a slew of talented folks- Cyndi Lauper, Taylor Dayne, Nancy Sinatra, Sandra Bernhard to name a few! My first band was an industrial band in 1997 called Disciples of Astaroth. Before that, I was a classically trained concert pianist.
© Mike Black
Gyda: In addition to having my own record released recently, I played bass in the seminal doom metal band Angel Rot, with ex-White Zombie axeman Tom Five. Last summer I toured Europe playing bass in Psychic TV with Genesis P. Orridge. I’ve also performed (as a bassist) with David Bowie guitarist Earl Slick, and in the house band on the celebrity Cable TV show “Title This” with such luminaries as Sex Pistol’s Glenn Matlock and jazz great Ornette Coleman.
© Todd Gay
JoJo: I played with Missdemeanor, a well known East Coast all-girl heavy metal band and The Creeps NYC.
© Judas Priestess
Grace Maiden of Metal: I was playing guitar and violin at the early age of ten and decided to put down the violin to pick up the electric guitar. I’d been playing the guitar since 1997 and a lot of heavy metal throughout the years, which opened the doors for getting into my first band: Judas Priestess.
© Mike Black
Tell us something about the history of your band. Whose idea was it to put together all female Judas Priest tribute?
Gyda: I was in “Ziggy Starlet”, an all-girl Bowie tribute and our first show was with “GGG”, met D. We both wanted to do something heavier. We’re both seasoned musicians who were disenchanted with doing original music and not getting the success and recognition we deserved.
D: I needed to play the music I loved and had planned to start an all-girl Judas Priest band. After meeting Gyda at a show we both played and watching her rip into a couple songs, I knew Gyda had to be my partner in this from the ground up.
Grace and I met at a Priest show, the “Masters of Metal” tour at Jones Beach but lost contact. Months later by chance, she ran into me on St. Mark’s Place in the pouring rain minutes after my first meeting with Gyda about starting this band and said “I play guitar” – so that was friggin’ lucky and she lived in my neighborhood! Grace joined in late June.
By August we had recruited JoJo on drums, and she was the one and only drummer we wanted after seeing a video of her playing, so didn’t bother trying anyone else out. JoJo’s drumming style was so incredible that we were awestruck!
MilitiA was the first singer to contact us via our first ad but we didn’t get to meet until September. Her resume was spectacular and it seemed a good idea to have the music really together before bringing her in to check it out. But she seemed really busy with other projects and we weren’t sure if MilitiA would have the time to join our band. So a friend sat in on vocals while we were putting it all together. The main question we kept getting asked was “who is going to sing?” because without a truly capable knockout vocalist with huge stage presence, this band would not work. But it came together very organically, which is best.
Another huge criterion was that all the people coming into this group were authentic fire breathing rockers aside from being able to play the hell out of their instrument. Deciding to further identify ourselves as “America’s All Girl Tribute to the Metal Gods!” worked out beautifully, as there is a lot of diversity represented in this group. From New Jersey Italian to African American, Native American, three types of Hispanic, Polish, German, and so on all blended together into one damn loud and fiercely rockin’ band of heavy metal lovin’ gals. Very American!
How many gigs you’re played so far?
JoJo: 8 gigs
November 13, 2009 – Stone Pony, NJ
December 22, 2009 – Tempest Christmas Party, NYC
January 23, 2010 – Rose’s Cantina, Groton, CT
January 29, 2010 – Brooklyn Bowl, NY
February 6, 2010 – Seaside Tavern, Stamford, CT
March 5, 2010 – Stone Pony, NJ
March 12, 2010 – The Chance Theater, Poughkeepsie, NY
March 19, 2010 – Williamsburg Music Hall, Brooklyn, NY
MilitiA: I don’t keep count. I’m just interested in the next ones!
© Todd Gay
How has the reaction been?
MilitiA: We’ve gotten everything from crowd surfing mosh pit insanity to grown men crying … it’s thrilling!
Gyda: Phenomenal. We have a dream team lineup: the best possible female musicians fronted by an astounding singer. We’re much more than a great tribute band, we are a great BAND. Everyone tells us that we have fantastic chemistry and presence. People are blown away by our performances. I am personally blown away by my band mates at every show. Fans come up to us and say stuff like “wow, we heard girl Priest band and we expected you to suck – we can’t believe how good you are!” and “you play just as good if not better than guy musicians!” Authentic woman rock musicians always seem to get this reaction. It is still very much a “man’s world” especially in heavy metal.
Grace Maiden of Metal: The reaction from the crowd has been extremely gratifying. I love looking out into the audience and seeing people headbanging, throwing their fists up in the air, singing along to the songs and having a rockin time. I’m really glad that we have been blowing people away… at first the audience is curious and have their doubts I guess because we’re an all female heavy metal band but once we start playing they can’t believe how great Judas Priestess is and they love it!
It’s like a shock to the audience how well we can play the all mighty Priest. I love when fans come up to me and tell me I did a great job and ask for autographs, pictures and my guitar picks it’s a really good feeling to know that we’re doing a great job pleasing the audience!
D: We’ve been embraced by the rock community from the get go, and NYC is an especially tough town! The press has been very good to us, starting with a fantastic review of our 1st gig; to being seen and introduced to the rock world on VH1’s “That Metal Show”; doing radio interviews including Talking Metal and Nexus radio’s “Heavy Metal Sunday”; feature articles on the MTV music site, blabbermouth, Decibel, so on.
Major NYC radio stations have given us killer shout outs as well. Talking Metal’s John Ostronomy mentioned in a recent feature article about our band that a great trib like Judas Priestess will often pull in more attention and sell more tix than some nationally touring bands. Priest is a mainstay of metal — our audience wants to see how a bunch of chix in spikes and chains do it.
What is the most memorable gig so far and what made it great?
JoJo: Our first gig headlining at the Stone Pony, it was almost cancelled because of a hurricane, the waves were coming over the protecting wall and most of Ocean Avenue was shut down, but not Asbury Park (Stone Pony).
Gyda: For me it was Brooklyn Bowl – the audience went ballistic, crowd surfing and all, especially during “You Got Another Thing Coming.” One guy was kissing MilitiA’s shoes.
MilitiA: Brooklyn Bowl in Williamsburg, Brooklyn NY. It’s Brooklyn’s latest hot spot, a beautiful venue: big stage, bowling alley on the side, restaurant, bars, etc. When we played there it was the dead of winter and the crowd was hyped! It was packed to the gills and the energy was intense, so intense, a guy passionately made out with my boot while I was onstage singing. Foot worship? It’s always great.
What’s up next for your band?
MilitiA: We are looking forward to a great Spring/Summer with more shows. One in particular is going to be killer: Dee Snider’s March of Dimes charity biker rally for babies on Long Island on May 23rd 2010. More info to come! And,a special show at BB Kings in NYC with VH1’s Eddie Trunk hosting it in early July. We are also adding new songs to the set. Up next is Desert Plains and…(*drum solo*)… PAINKILLER! Please check www.myspace.com/judaspriestessband andwww.facebook.com/judaspriestessfans for updates.
You have also met the Metal God himself…
Grace Maiden of Metal: We met Rob Halford on VH1 Classic’s “That Metal Show” and as soon as he walked onto the set of the show he greeted Judas Priestess with big hugs and kisses. It was truly the greatest day of my life to get to meet him. He was a really nice guy and well spoken and was pleased that we are defending the faith. The most important man in heavy metal and an unstoppable legend – I almost couldn’t believe that I got the chance to interact with him. He gave me a shirt from his Metal Gods apparel line which was really nice of him and I got to stump Eddie Trunk on the show which was a lot of fun. Meeting Rob Halford was incredible!
D: We met him briefly at a taping of “That Metal Show.” It was rather overwhelming to see Rob Halford in such a small setting, then to personally meet this almost-magical legendary icon, and–as Priest’s all-girl female tribute. He was a wonderful guest and the audience hung on to every word Rob Halford spoke. Still spellbound that we had been there too and had met him, we then wound up screaming OMG! a million times skipping down the block after the taping of that show making total fools of ourselves.
© Judas Priestess
How did Rob comment the idea about all girl Priest tribute?
D: He was very gracious, took photos with us, saying “I can’t wait to hear your band” and asked to send him a good Youtube. If that isn’t inspiration, what is? Halford was also interested in who was singing for our group, so he and MilitiA exchanged some words about this.
So, what did he say? Got any instructions how to nail those Priest songs?
MilitiA: Basically, I told him that I’d make him proud…
How many Priest songs do you have in your current setlist?
Gyda: Headin’ up to 24.
Which one took most work to get done, and which is the hardest one to play live?
JoJo: Just started working on Painkiller, I think that will wind up be the toughest.
MilitiA: It took a while for us to lock in and nail the groove and the different moods of Victim of Changes. Now — we got it!
Grace Maiden of Metal: Victim of Changes is a very sophisticated song and learning it was challenging at first but I feel that a song like that takes a lot of work to make it sound great. Although the song is a bit of a challenge the more we play it the better it sounds. We strive for perfection!
How much practice does it take to make a successful tribute act?
Gyda: I guess that depends on your level of musicianship. We all do our homework. We live it.
MilitiA: A lot! And we’re not even imitating JUDAS PRIEST! It’s a lot because we know that first and foremost we have to serve the music, execute it brilliantly and honor to the legacy of JUDAS PRIEST. Ya can’t do all that layin up, twiddling your thumbs!
JoJo: It’s a process over time, some weeks we can’t all get together but we do our homework and when we do get together for a rehearsal it always seems to come together, some songs quicker than others but nothing tightens us up like playing live shows.
D: it’s not all a matter of practice hours put in; it’s more about being able to deliver the songs in a genuine and completely heartfelt performance. Even though we are a tribute, the moments on stage doing this are very real to us and people there all know it and feel it too.
Have you recorded any Priest material in studio?
MilitiA: Not yet. We haven’t really needed to thus far – we’ve got great buzz and hot videos! We’re a live band. When people hear the name, they automatically know what they’re going to get – they’re just surprised HOW GOOD they get it!! Maybe one day…
You come from NYC. How is the metal scene there nowadays?
Gyda: There isn’t much of a specific metal scene here, but everyone seems to know and love Priest! They love us in our home town and out of town. Last night I went to the movies in the East Village and sat nearby a girl who happened to be watching a Judas Priestess Youtube vid on her iphone when I sat down near her!
MilitiA: The metal scene here is and has always been small. However, metalheads are the most devoted and loyal music lovers out there, so, we all pretty much show support for each other’s bands and events. Everyone knows everyone else and they play in this band or that band, swap players, etc … very incestuous circles we live in! Tribute bands get a lotta love and can book some pretty big shows in NYC and the surrounding area.
Grace Maiden of Metal: The Metal Scene in NYC has its ups and downs… just like everything else I guess. In the 80’s the metal scene was great in NY but I wouldn’t say there is a huge metal scene right now. A lot of the new bands that are out now don’t particularly interest me as I prefer the music of the 70’s and 80’s. There is a lot of 80’s metal making its way back into the NYC scene which makes me happy though. I don’t know about other tribute bands, but Judas Priestess has had no trouble at all getting gigs and I am very thankful for that!
Is it difficult to get gigs as a tribute band?
We started out with a bang! Headlining at the legendary Stone Pony is Asbury Park – made famous forever by Bruce Springsteen. Judas Priestess has proven itself as a band of great intrest, so clubs have contacted us online for dates, and members have worked out various contacts to line up shows. But it hasn’t been 100% ez by any means. We are now working with someone in the industry who will be able to help us get into places that would have been difficult to crack into, like casinos, national theaters, festivals, as well as out-of-state large rock clubs, and so on.
In general, tribute bands can fare well depending on their level of expertise, and quite often do much better than many original bands in getting gigs / bringing in the people. Larger audiences will come out faster to hear the classics they love than experimenting with unknown original bands on the club scene because they’ve often been disappointed, and it’s quite expensive to go out for a night! However as a tribute it’s not just your audience coming to hear the music they enjoy… it’s also test of your abilities as a musician to wow that crowd who knows every lick, note, word and nuance of these songs and expects to get it all.
What is your favourite Priest album and track?
Grace Maiden of Metal: I have so many favorite songs it’s so hard to choose…I few of my picks are Love Bites, Heavy Metal, Hot Rockin, Hot for Love, Wild Nights Hot and Crazy Days, Star Breaker and many many more! As far as albums go I love British Steel, Defenders of the faith, Metal Works and Turbo are amazing albums.
JoJo: Hell Bent for Leather and British Steel albums, there are just so many great songs on both albums it’s hard to even choose a favorite. The song Painkiller is a personal favorite, Scott Travis’ drumming is just incredible.
MilitiA: British Steel. It has so many absolute Priest essentials on it. It was my first album by Priest so it has personal and sentimental value for me- the times and the places where I listened to it are ingrained. Plus, my copy is autographed by daddy Halford 😉 It’s hard to pick a favorite track. I get stuck on one or two at a time and then I put them down and cling to another. Right now? I’m torn between Dissident Aggressor from Touch of Evil (live) and Diamonds and Rust from Unleashed in the East … for now!
Gyda: There is much diversity in the music of Judas Priest. One tune that has just about everything in it is “Victim of Changes”: gorgeous Sabbath-like, blues-based stoner riffage – chunky churning heavy metal chords – sweet, slower melodious intervals – insanely soulful guitar leads – all topped by a beautiful vocal line that is so emotional it will make you weep.
D: Victim of Changes cannot be beat. Other than that, I have a lot of favorites. Picking a top Priest album is hard ‘cuz there are great songs I really like on all the albums. But British Steel is where I first got tuned into them.
Thanks a lot for this interview!