How hard was it for you to come up with a name? What does it mean to you?
Paul: Not very hard. We wanted to shake things up and create an opposing antidote to commercial girly pop groups like Atomic Kitten (at that stage in the early 2000s, the world still had a short supply of female-fronted bands within the heavier genres, and almost non-existent here in South Africa) – With no long term plans at the time, we just wanted to have fun with something exciting to please ourselves. Initially it was more a project than a band, and there were going to be two female vocalists (which within less than a year shifted to be only Sonja). The name we bounced around at first was Uberpuss (a response stab at the aforementioned girlie-group, but, in our home language Afrikaans the word “puss” doesn’t refer to a cat, but has a phonetic relation to a more crude word).
But once we created some songs, we realized this is more than just a weekend fun project. We wnated to create a name that encapsulates the band’s elements. We’ve always been fans of Sci-Fi and dystopian movies and wanted to capture that vibe, so we combined movie titles like Tetsuo The Iron Man, The Terminator, The Matrix, with that of the dominatrix and Nexus replicants (from Bladerunner), plus the river Styx.
Was it hard for you to come up with a sound you all could agree on?
Paul: From the start (back in 2002) we were set on creating something not done (or hardly done) before in South Africa – create a band with a hardcore edge, electronic elements and female vocals.
We do what comes naturally and don’t need to force it.
While our music has a Metal basis, it slides and glides through a wide range of Alternative flavours, without 100% locking on to just one – that makes it exciting for us. These include Industrial and Gothic elements, as well as hints of film soundtrack moods. We like diversity and wouldn’t be happy to categorize our music as strictly Metal, full-on Industrial, or exclusively Gothic. This can sometimes be difficult to please a music listening public who want their audio intake to be very black & white and strictly adhere to what they feel it should be. We also won’t be adopting the “popular sound of the moment”. Linked to this, people also expect Sonja to fall on either one of the two extremes when it comes to female vocal expectations: She’s not a screeching, puking growler, nor is she an angelic operatic singer – she does her own thing which adds to our unique approach (the nasty growls come from my side!)
But once you hear us, you’ll be surprised how many different types of people who wouldn’t share each other’s musical taste, can find a common ground in ours, different elements of it speaking to them.
All the band members have a very wide musical taste and never had issues with the band’s sound – We love to explore and if we add a new element, that’s cool, although our instincts are well developed to know instantly if something feels fake or forced – but that has hardly ever happened.
Sonja: Once we have the “bones” for the song, we (Paul and I) work together to flesh it out. The result is something we can all live with. Our guitarist (Patrick) and drummer (Ronnie) have the creative freedom to interpret and perform the songs like they want to. We are all very much into the same type of music and we find inspiration in the same things. It is not a stretch for us to be on the same page.
How does your latest recording compare to the previous ones?
Sonja: The latest recordings was done mostly at Belville Studios. We had programmed drums on our self-titled debut album and decided to record live drums, on analog, on our latest “Shadow” album.
I had a greater creative input into this album and the songs which had an effect on the general tempo of Shadow (which is mid tempo, but with impact).
Paul: Our debut album was entirely recorded and produced by us (just had it mixed and mastered elsewhere). The “Remyx v1.0” album was an entire remixed version of all the debut album songs, with remixers form around the world adding their touch to it – which led to a wide variety of sounds, a lot more electronic in nature (which Industrial fans like).
With the “Shadow” album I co-produced it with renowned South African producer Theo Crous (from Belville Studios), and while we did do a lot of pre-recording ourselves, did quite a bit of tracking there (including the live drums Sonja mentioned – which we blended with many of the programmed beats). Theo also added orchestration and additional elements that really boosted the fullness of the album compared to the slightly more raw feel of the debut.
We included some guest – some of them include: on the track “Outcast” we have Heike Langhans from Draconian on vocals and Matthijs Van Dijk (also in our Makabra Ensemble movie soundtrack group and Sonja’s side project A Murder) on violin and orchestration; On “Holy” I’m joined on backing vocals by my brother Francois Blom (also in the band V.O.D – Voice Of Destruction with me, and K.O.B.U.S.) and Francois Van Coke (from the popular bands Fokofpolisiekar and Van Coke Kartel)
We don’t go crazy with overly technical lead breaks, but focus on the core and essence of the song. Whatever the tempo, we always want to lock into a groove with a riff that grabs your attention and brainwashes you to want to hear it again (without adhering to Pop tactics).
How important are the lyrics to you? What kind of topics do you deal with?
Sonja: We place value on what we say, especially when you are afforded a platform to say something. We are not satisfied with “fluff” and our lyrics range from political views to the more emotional elements of life. We tend to be dark and the subject matter is generally serious.
Paul: Lyrics are extremely important and I agree that if you have this medium at your disposal, you need to utilize it and say something meaningful.
My lyrics tend to be more confrontational than Sonja’s, sometimes political or social in nature, hers more introspective, but it can often swerve into area of fantasy or narrative. But if someone who doesn’t care much for lyrics listen to our music, we always want it to be a fulfilling, exciting experience, so we don’t skimp on either the lyrics or music. Sonja’s vocals also make part of the instrumentation as a whole. And when we do an instrumental, we want it to tell its own tale without words.
How important is the cover art work for you? How much do you decide in choosing art work?
Sonja: We believe, like many other musicians, that the offering should be an entire “package”. We also try to capture the mood of the album with the art work. We are an independent band, which gives us creative freedom. We are not guided by what we think people will like. We are guided by what we like. One of the few perks of being untethered…
Paul: It is very important to us. An image can convey a mood or expected anticipation in one flash, before even hearing a single note. We want our album covers to intrigue people, have them interested to find out more. An image can speak a thousand words.
Linked to that, we also pay a lot of attention to the art of our music videos, not only representing the band, but also giving the viewer cool and memorable images linked to a storyline – We’re also filmmakers and make most of our music videos, so we put our stamp on it.
Where outside of your country have you had success with your previous albums?
Sonja: Yes, we have seen sales right across the world. Platforms such as CD Baby, ITunes and Amazon has made it easier to spread the music (and physical copies via Bandcamp).
Paul: All of our albums have had overwhelmingly positive reviews, most from abroad, especially “Shadow” ( see review links at www.terminatryx.com/TXpress.htm )
Album sales have covered the globe from the USA and Canada to all over Europe, Japan, Australia etc. Foreign interest can sometimes be greater than on our home turf, and the concentration is mostly in Europe.
Why is it that we do not see more metal bands from your country making it big internationally?
Sonja: South Africa has an incredibly small Alternative base. Many bands start out with big dreams but realize a year into it, that dreams of becoming rich and famous with Metal music are simply that, dreams… There is not a big enough market to sustain the many bands and therefore they give up too easily. This is unfortunate. We do not consider ourselves a “big” band, but we have managed to gain traction through our love and passion for our art and the fact that we are all incredibly stubborn.
Paul: With the main Metal hubs of the world in Europe and the USA, breaking into it is a non-stop battle – even with the convenience of on-line avenues (which, in fact can be counter productive with this being a very crowded and competitive space where everyone is trying their best to get noticed) – The days of record labels discovering and offering a new band a multi-million dollar deal is also no longer the case. The scene is alive here, but not very big (the media hardly gives our genres the time of day in favour of more commercial shit).
Down here it is costly to keep your band going, and to break into those bigger markets where indigenous bands are already fighting to get noticed takes more than just marketing $$$ – and our exchange rate is fucked! (around 20 to the Sterling Pound and 16 to the US Dollar).
You can no longer dream of cracking it big via Facebook or YouTube, so you have you get creative.
What is your local metal scene like? What status does your band have in the national metal scene?
Sonja: With reference to my previous answer, the SA metals scene is small… it is a genre within a genre in a small alternative base. In the South African Alternative scene we are a known band and have been included in great line-ups. We played the international Witchfest festival and opened for Ministry on their SA tour, amongst many other international acts. While this might not seem like much if one compares with the success of many international acts, we do value the opportunities we have been afforded in SA.
Paul: Terminatryx has grown to become a respected band in the South African Alternative scene – Some people don’t like the fact that we can fluctuate between sub-genres (the earlier mentioned cut & dry categorization). As Sonja mentioned, we’ve been invited as official support for many international bands, from Ministry to Diary Of Dreams, and invited to festivals like Witchfest (with Cannibal Corpse, Epica, Hatebreed, Septic Flesh), as well as RAMfest and Metal4Africa’s Winterfest and Summerfest events. When Sam Dunn (maker of Metal: A Headbangers Journey and Iron Maiden’s Flight 666) came to South Africa mid-2015 to shoot a piece on South African Metal, we were one of a handful bands to be invited for a special show which they filmed.
In the last few years there has been a resurgence with groups and promoters who love the genre, trying very hard to create a sense of unity in building it to its potential.
Resources like the aforementioned Metal 4 Africa has worked for over a decade at getting the word of the continent’s Metal out there. Check it out at: www.metal4africa.com
What is the general population’s opinion on metal? Is being a metal musician a respectable choice?
Sonja: Whilst being progressive in many other things, SA remains a conservative country with a big Christian and Muslim population. Unfortunately the perception is still that Metal music, and those involved with it, are rebellious, anarchistic and evil. Therefore the small market place. We do not get the same opportunities as other genres and our Alternative community relies very much on itself for everything, from radio, festivals to magazines etc. Whilst we believe that being a metal/alternative musician is worthwhile, it does not translate into providing a sustainable income.
Paul: The stigma of Metal bands and its fans being hooligans is an international one that sadly will probably never change. Of course those of us in it know this is not true (sure, you have some total nuts who cause issues, but they are in the minority and you’ll find them anywhere, not just in the Metal community). Unfortunately it is difficult for people to accept something they don’t understand. Some people will always remain ignorant and we don’t feel we need to waste time to convince them, they’ll never get it. You need this in your blood, without explanations or excuses.
I many ways, a lot of people simply dismiss it.
But, South Africans are hard working, persistent people, and it is impossible to do what we do full-time; there isn’t a large enough fanbase to support regular shows or make album sales lucrative enough to make it your full-time career here. There are also only a handful venues in the main cities of Cape Town and Johannesburg, and touring is very costly due to the long distances between these hubs. So, almost every Metal band here has to create their art independently in their spare time as it were(!)
What does the future hold for you?
Sonja: We are currently in the first phases of writing material for a new album and we have a couple of music video productions in pre-planning. Hopefully this year will be one of execution. We all have many other projects. It therefore takes massive dedication and passion to get things done. We believe that our trajectory is only going upwards.
Paul: I’ve assembled a mountain of riffs and song ideas which I’ll need to delve into and put a new album together (considering to do something a little different).
At the end of last year (for our 13th anniversary) we released “Lucky 13: Anthology I”, a digital collection of recordings across our catalog via Fangoria Musick (USA), and at the beginning of January Sonja won 2015 Vocalist Of The Year at Audio Inferno’s “African Rock Music Awards”.
As Sonja mentioned, we plan on making some more music videos and further extend our reach with those.
We also plan to record Sonja’s acoustic project A Murder, and I may kick off a long planned side project of mine.
We’ve never really hunted for a label, but may be looking into getting Terminatryx picked up by an international one so we can get our music out to a wider audience, as you can only do so much here in South Africa until you hit a wall.