There are so many sub-genres of metal today that it is hard to follow them all. MENA BRINNO could very well be fitted into the symphonic or operatic catergories. Interview answers by Katy. Anders Ekdahl ©2013
Let’s begin with why you play in a metal band? What is so great about metal?
-I love immersive, powerful experiences. What is more immersive and powerful than metal? I play in a metal band because to me metal is the ideal creative outlet. The best ear-trained musicians and the fans who are most serious about music that I meet are always metalheads.
From what I understand you are a classical trained opera singer. How much vocal training have you had and how different is it to sing opera compared to metal?
-I’ve studied opera at Carnegie Mellon University, where I did a BFA in Vocal Performance. I also studied musical theatre there… and I did an MA in Opera Performance at Birmingham Conservatoire at the University of Central England in England. Despite the reputation of opera as straight-laced, opera treats all the risqué themes of sex and death that we find in metal. The two forms are not opposites, but they are very different in terms of attitudes. For example one who performs in opera is restricted to a small number of canonical works, whereas metal offers limitless chances for one to compose and work through the creative process.
I’m not the biggest opera fan. How elitist is the opera scene? How much freedom are you given as a performer?
-That’s ok! I completely understand your feelings! Honestly, it is quite variable. Many are elitist and it’s really ridiculous. You are not given much freedom because you must work within the constraints of what is written and what is considered stylistically appropriate if you want to work! However, I always felt reigned in and uncomfortable in the genre and I learned more about the ‘art’ of music being in a metal band than I did studying opera. That’s the truth. Part of music is making music and letting go. Maybe some are able to do that in the opera world but that release never happened for me UNTIL I joined a metal band.
I can understand the technical skill of singing opera but I do not understand why it has to be pitch perfect and note for note perfect. That makes it more a judged sport than music to me. When was it decided that you have to play it the way it was the first time it was performed and who decides if it is perfectly performed?
-Many decide…audiences, directors, the music director etc. It’s a creative collaboration just as it is in a rock band. However, there are certain expectations that are adhered to based on the academic traditions of opera. That’s where I got stuck. I found it very difficult to enjoy something because it was ‘supposed’ to be a certain way.
OK, enough about opera for a while. Let’s concentrate on the metal. With what intentions did you form MENA BRINNO?
-My intention of forming the band was to finally explore my own creative side. Making music and figuring out how you do that..how to improvise music, how to write..how to play with people from totally different musical backgrounds than myself. Creativity is absolutely central to who I am and I felt like I had a lot to say that I was unable to get out in the opera world. So this was almost a necessity for me. I was inspired by the power and majesty of metal and it allowed me the freedom I desired to express myself. It’s been an awesome experience and greater than anything I ever experienced in opera.
How tough is it to find a sound that works and that hasn’t been done to death already?
-Very tough! Though, I don’t sit around trying to be original…we just create songs based on our thoughts and feelings and musical experiences. I’m not trying to sell myself, I’m just exploring my creativity as a singer and artist and sharing it. I really hate the idea of my band being about a product, no matter what anyone tells you. That’s a horrible thought..it’s an art..period. If I wanted to just be about money and sales, I would definitely choose a different career!!
What kind of scene is there in the States for the kind of metal that you guys play? What kind of scene is there for metal in general in the States?
-Not much of a scene. I’ve gotten a lot of funny comments in clubs before..like “what the hell was that?” It still really has the freak of nature impact in my neck of the woods! However, there are a lot of people that appreciate it, they are just spread out.
How do you avoid being compared to Evanescence or Paramore or any other popular female fronted metal/pseudo metal acts making the rounds?
-I don’t! People do it all the time, though we sound literally nothing like them.
Your album has been out a while now. Where have you noticed that the interest has been the greatest so far?
-From Germany to Russia..definitely.
What kind of future would you like to see for MENA BRINNO?
-Well, we are planning another record and hopefully a visit to Europe in the not so distant future.