Marthe and her version of Black Metal meets Stoner Doom is a force that has an undeniable pull-factor, slowly taking you in and not leaving you until you are lost in her world full and always on the look for a way out of the downward spiral that we call life. Her full-length Further in Evil was proof of an artist who knows what she wants to say, doesn’t stray from saying it and that is anything but done. Having given life to this record she is now the radiant example of how to use music for your own cleansing, self-imposed healing. Therefore we are so proud to give you another special thing today - our written interview with Marthe!
A mere eleven weeks ago (already feels like ages ago, doesn’t it?) we gave you a review for the mighty Marthe full-length Further in Evil (out via Southern Lord) which received a lot of good reaction from your side - righteously so! At that time we had already contacted the artist and asked for an interview so now we are very proud to be able to give you this great interview with her in which we talk about festivals, influences and especially about the misunderstanding that also befell yours truly when talking about Further in Evil!
Your new record has now been out a few weeks – are you happy and content with the reaction and feedback you got on it?
Absolutely, the simple fact that I have been able to finish it and make it see the light is my biggest satisfaction. I have a strong Bandcamp fanbase that supported me a lot when Marthe was just nothing more than a demo, there has been an increase in further followers and a lot of positive feedback, which I never take for granted. So, the reaction was overall great and totally unexpected from my side, I feel grateful to anyone that spent time in writing a message or getting the LP and merch, thank you so much!
Seemingly it took quite some time to get this record out – can you explain the time lapse between Sisters of Darkness from 2019 and Further in Evil a bit?
It actually took me only one year since I started in December 2021 and finished in December 2022/January 2023. When Sisters Of Darkness was released, I didn’t even think about another record but then there has been an increasing demand for new music so I started considering it. I started then in December 2021 and by April, when the first single “Victimized” dropped, I already had 3 drafts. Covid didn’t help: in 2020 and half of 2021, while the rest of the world was experiencing the home recording delights, I had no inspiration at all. I didn’t write any single tune so this adds time off from the project, maybe in a normal situation I would have started earlier.
How difficult was it to find the right “tone” for this record? In the sense of tonality and lyrics?
Lyrics are coming out like popcorn. I have so many inputs that I write full diaries of notes even before starting the songs. I write notes in my car, at work, watching movies but mainly when I travel, hike or read. It’s all related to how I feel so the moods switch. The right tone was easy too because I focussed on what I would love as a listener and I think I found the formula I loved.
How must we envision the songwriting process for your songs – is it a continuing flow or rather a collection of bursts?
The second. I start with a riff or an idea, then I have to stop for whatever reason, then I start over often after weeks, while binge listening to the drafts in order to collect other ideas. Sometimes I have long periods off from the creative process but in those moments I have sparks that might also be unconventional from the direction I was taking, it’s really like making a clay project, creation, destruction, creation, polishing.
The record consists completely of your ideas but who else was involved in its making?
Just me. Prior to printing, I adjusted the length of some intro and outro according to SL suggestions in order to fill the correct side lengths of the LP. I had all the drafts approved without any further editing and both me and SL were happy with the songs as they were.
When you went into the studio to record Further in Evil – were the songs already completely fleshed out or were there twists and tweaks to the tracks?
I recorded it by myself at home, so I adjusted everything while making it. The mixing and mastering took place in a proper studio, mixing was the hardest part because I knew how to make it sound but I couldn’t master the mixing tools at the studio so I guided the sound guy in doing what I was expecting. I knew each second by heart, I had the clearest ideas possible. Then he mastered it and the magic happened, it sounded exactly how I wanted it to be.
Where did you record and with whom? Why there and with that “staff”?
I recorded it in my bedroom. So, it was just me the whole time. For the mixing and the mastering, when everything was ready, I went to AudioVolt Studio in Florence. I chose this studio because it’s owned by my long time friend Lorenzo. He plays in an amazing Metal band called Noia and we met like two decades ago, played in many squats and festivals together, we eventually toured together for a mighty 45 days diy tour with my other band at the time (Kontatto). Lorenzo was my first choice in Italy, I wanted somebody that was both close to me (geographically) but also as a friend, in order to feel comfortable during the whole process of mixing etc. It sounds stupid but I’m a drummer and it took me almost five years to get used to my vocals and to listen to it with someone else. Lorenzo, despite being friends for a long time, is a very introverted and shy, reserved person, never speaking too much, very reflective and calm, he has an interesting approach to life and facts, he’s open to any kind of topic and discussion and it’s truly interesting to spend time with him, also because we have different perspectives on many things but this stimulates a lot of talking. On top of this, he’s a living heavy Metal and music encyclopedia, he has some of the finest and widest knowledge in Metal music and he’s a talented musician. He also masters digital music, he’s truly an artist at 360°.
When you write your song – is it of any importance how to put them on stage them or is that of a rather secondary nature?
I have to like it for the pure pleasure of listening, with no particular importance on the final destination of it.
The record is – indirectly – about female empowerment, about taking your position. Is “Victimized” a kind of programmatic track in that sense?
This is the main “misunderstanding” in this record. There is nothing about female empowerment in it, in terms of content and intentions. It is totally and completely focussed on self healing through loneliness and suffering, despite the gender, it’s universal. “Sisters Of Darkness”, (the song), was dedicated to the impure and unholy nature of women, according to religion, to anything witchy related in terms of inner elements and also to the Accabadora, a Sardinian historical figure of a woman with huge power on death and life. The misunderstanding probably comes from some of my statements on the nature of Marthe itself, such as feminism and when I talked about feminine power in some elements such as imagery evoked by the clean or wicked singing that reminded me of a witch or a valkyrie. I call it “Valkyrian Metal” because this idea of a female entity triggers this reference in my head, and of course because I’m a woman so there is a whole universe of female imagery to refer to. When I started the project, I was aware I would enter a more Metal oriented dominium so I made clear to everybody approaching which were my beliefs. Coming from Punk all this was clear and never needed highlights, but since many people would be new to me and my music I used a few adjectives (on my Bandcamp description) including feminist, to describe my beliefs, since it is very important to me. This is on a personal level. Musically and lyrically, the whole record talks about betrayal, loss, grief, loneliness, and how to emerge from the abyss with our own strengths. In “Victimized” I talk about my desire for revenge in a situation of injustice. When I say “I tried to empower myself but I failed” it is referring to my attempt to go over things easily but without succeeding. I’d love to be less sensitive and more superficial, so as not to get hurt so easily. The whole concept of Further In Evil is a journey in building an inner armor for self defense, trying to learn how not to suffer anymore. (It’s not working anyway hahah!) My position is taken more in my everyday life at work than in any art I do: I’m a tutor, teacher and support teacher in a vocational school made by male migrants and refugee teens aged 14-18 in extreme need (its a social care service and a machine tooling/mechanical school). Sometimes their position on women and sexuality is so problematic that we deal daily with anger control, emotional education, self respect, mutual respect, consent, equal rights, non aggressive communication and empathy. That’s where my existence makes a difference for real if we are talking about taking positions.
How do you see the position of women in Black Metal – there are some and the numbers are rising. But is it important to you that more women participate in that scene?
This is a cool question to answer and it will require a few more lines than usual, I hope I can make a clear answer. It triggers a few interesting points I’d like to go through to make the answer the most complete possible.
First of all, my answer might look incomplete because I don’t place myself specifically in the Black Metal scene: I have been an active part mainly of the DIY/Punk scene for 25 years and I don’t have an overall complete perspective on the Black Metal world, so I have no clear and relevant data on this topic (right now I just played a random Spotify playlist “Female Black Metal” and damn, so many bands I don’t know!) I have loved Metal since I was a teen so it has been a constant part of my life, I’ve been to Metal shows and kept updated buying Metal records constantly, I have crossover connections and friends in the Metal scene of course, kept up with new bands and enjoyed a lot the big Metal-Punk revival that took place in the last part of the 2010s. To be honest I’m only recently opening to a more Black Metal oriented scene and this is a new scenario to me, and I’m eager to learn and explore more and more, in a spontaneous way. To me, it’s not just writing a Metal record that makes you an active part of that scene but the amount of commitment you put into it: we all know, it’s not just music so, for the reasons above, my perspective on women in Black Metal might be smaller compared to others. I can recall a powerful episode, my first encounter with a female (solo) Black Metal project, in 2005, Stockholm: I went there from London, where I lived at the time, to attend the reunion show of Mob 47 and in a total Crust/D-Beat weekend I met Trish, a Canadian lady that recently moved to Norway and was traveling through Scandinavia. I didn’t even have MySpace. She had a d-beat project like me so we hooked immediately, shared love for the same bands, and she gave me a CD of her solo project. I found it super cool, she was doing it all alone, I didn’t particularly like the genre entirely, but it was incredible to me at that time that she was doing it all by herself and I loved it. At the moment, I don’t have a female/female fronted Black Metal band that I like in particular, I’m a bit picky especially on the songs’ structure, but I promise I will dig more and find my favorite acts.
Going on into a general level, the starting point for a discussion of women in Black Metal is for sure that yes, there are many amazing bands with women. To me it’s pretty normal, I’ve been used (and still am) to play in mixed bands, with men, women and any kind of sexual identification. I think that a balanced mix of different sexualities in the scene or in bands is always a good thing, desirable and that adds complexity and value to any cultural environment. It is of course remarkable, for this reason, if more women participate in the scene, the more representation we have, the greater our voice is.
Second point is that (and it’s my personal belief) playing in a band is not something I point out as women’s empowerment anymore. I think it’s no longer a matter of “numbers”: it used to be, in the past, regardless of the country or music genre. In Italy at least, getting access to music equipment or being part of a band was harder for girls (mainly due to cultural/social prejudices or weak emancipation), maybe elsewhere it was easier. One of my first bands was a Riot Grrrl band (in the 90s) so I still have a clear vision and memory on how important it was to embrace an instrument or help girls get access to any form of artistic expression. I waited and fighted for two years before getting my first bass in Junior high school and I was living in civilized modern Italy no longer than 28 years ago. Now (I’m always referring to the “Western world”) it’s pretty much taken for granted, it’s normal, there’s the Internet, online stores, whatever is within a click, everything is accessible. So, if nowadays female numbers in Black Metal might appear low, or still low, is simply because it might be not appealing playing music, or maybe women prefer other styles, or maybe again they don’t like playing an instrument but prefer other forms of expressions such as illustration, Electronic Music, dance, whatever. And, if it’s increasing, it’s because there are women interested in it. Very natural. What I would love to witness with more interest would be women being more relevant in countries where some music genres are still very rare, for cultural reasons. I’m a lot into a new wave of Arabic Punk bands, or I’ve seen Eastern Asian Crust bands made by fully veiled ladies, that’s what makes me feel the sense of empowerment or sparks (again) in me the fire of emancipation through music. My white, privileged world (whatever our problems might be) is a little dot in a universe still made of fight for basic needs or access to basic leasures or expression. More than “how many” I’m interested in “where”.
On another level I assume a difference between female and feminist, that’s also adding diversity to the topic. I decided to keep “feminist” as an adjective in my band description because it represented a clear stance on equal rights and on me and my beliefs as a person. That adjective refers to me, not to Marthe, not to the band, if you get what I mean. The band has nothing related to that in the lyrics or symbols or imagery, but me, I do. I can’t split music from the artist and I built my whole life and music experience around clear and strong beliefs, one of them is being absolutely feminist = equal rights between men and women (or any other diversity). And I’ve been very lucky! I always interacted with amazing audiences and people in Metal as well as in Punk, never experienced sexism in my music bubble and found strong and powerful ladies all around. Despite this good luck in my lifelong encounters, I believe that it’s important to be aware that sexism exists and many women in music/extreme music are a target, when they differ from what is socially accepted as suitable for women’s social status. I guess that Black Metal or Metal in general still has a lot to do in terms of gender gap, starting from the general mindset, from the most common stereotypes, from everything related to equality. Metal, as a genre, or many Metal bands can be controversial for many aspects, and extreme Metal even more, it’s often crossing the limits or remarking arguable topics in a provocative way. I’m glad keeping the word “feminist” was NOT received as discriminatory, because to me it just stands for equal access to any life, culture and social rights and standards for everybody, in music as well. Not all women are feminist thou, and that’s fine too. For this reason, the fact of having more women in the scene wouldn’t add anything in terms of equal rights, if that’s not explicit. Women might simply like playing in a band, because they like it, for fun, for the music without any other further political investment, that’s great too. To me, anything that helps people express themselves, have fun, spread good vibes, is desirable for everyone’s happiness. Last words: solidarity within women is the most important thing to me. Supporting each other arts, music, bands, team up and collaborations are what I love.
If you could come up with an all-female line-up, who would you like to have by your side and why?
Kat from Thronehammer / Uncoffined on drums
Cristina from Agrimonia / Contorture on bass
Malin from Contorture on guitar
Christina from Nuclear Death Terror / Indre Krig on guitar
Lucretia from Horror Vacui / Vespertina on synth/clean vocals
Me, on vocals, but I’d love to do drums haha
The reason: we speak the same “language”, come from the same background, share ideals and they are great musicians with a DIY background that means almost everything to me, this approach and attitude is all that counts. A band is not just music, and they are amazing people I would definitely have fun playing with.
“Dead to you” – a wonderful fuck-you of a title, so which kind of people are dead to you?
The song is complicated, I wrote it within a stream of various outlets, but it is indeed a fuck you to people that leave you when you are in need simply and cowardly ghosting. It’s related to deep connections, not to everybody that simply takes their spaces etc. It’s about how disoriented you can get when you put efforts in keeping something alive but you see the push comes from you only, while on the other end there is someone totally disconnected. It’s hard to see that, despite no conflict, people disappear when finding something cooler.
Did you write the track with a specific person in mind?
It’s always related to how I feel when I get hurt for different reasons. My lyrics are my therapy, because I can’t afford a therapist haha.
The record seems pretty influenced by classic Scandinavian Black Metal – am I right in guessing that Bathory is one your major influences? If so, can so explain it a bit? If not, can you name the artist most important to you?
Bathory is one of my all-time fav band and I wanted to try myself to make music that had at least 1% of its amazing atmosphere. It’s just perfect in everything´. My mind FLIES completely when I listen to it. I love the soundscapes, the imagery, everything. I wanted to make a record that I would love from outside, in that direction, as an external listener. So far, no bands are comparable to Bathory. There are many other elements that derive from my Crust background but my main inspiration in general, in the whole vibe, is the ensemble of what Bathory evokes. Bathory is unique, impossible to find another one like him. I also love Tiamat and Amebix, I love many others of course but I always name these because they have the sum of the most elements I like in a band.
Which other people/bands influenced you? Which things outside of our musical spheres?
I love Horror Synth, Dungeon Synth, horror soundtracks, hiking, winter sea, lakes, night skies, driving alone… All these elements turn into music somehow.
The album is a brilliant lesson in the importance of dynamics and sounds. Some tracks have a very Post-Punkish vibe, others seem to be Stoner-infused and yet they’re all Black Metal in a sense. Does this reflect on the music you like to listen to?
This is the final mix of my plural influences, I love Crust, D-Beat, Rawpunk, Stench, Heavy Metal, Viking Metal, Post-Punk, Goth, Dungeon Synth, Arabic music (I spend more time with my students in school than with my family, they come from Northern Africa so that’s a huge influence on me too).
On the record you also cover Siouxsie and the Banshees – “Sin in my Heart”. A track close to your heart, right?
That’s my dancefloor hit, along with “Dancing With Tears In My Eyes” by Ultravox, and many more.
Did you feel any pressure recording that cover or was it a simple homage?
In the beginning I wanted to make it as closer as possible to the original, but I was not satisfied and it didn’t add anything to the record, I also didn’t want to ruin the original :-D So I made an experiment with the piano and submitted it to SL to see if they liked it, they were enthusiastic and we included it. It is an important track to me because I’m coming to terms with my clean singing. It was my acceptance moment, a very deep encounter with myself. It’s not so easy when you’re not to be a singer, I’ve always been in the back covered in instruments, using my voice is still a process I’m exploring.
You can choose one artist to cover one of your songs – who shall cover which Marthe-track?
Impossible to answer, I’m still coming to terms with my own existence :-) I would love Messa. They are unbelievably good and one of my fav bands at the moment with my fav atmosphere.
Recently you also released two tracks on which you collaborated with Greg Anderson. How was it to work with your label boss? How much influence did you have on the tracks?
He’s the best. We know each other virtually since a very short time and met only once, he gave me so much trust and creative freedom that I was impressed. Working with him was like being with a source of light: he submitted me the tracks and the idea and asked me to define the vocals and a few other sounds, with effects and total freedom. Luckily we have a very special connection, we work very well even without particular set ups, it’s a lot of mental and musical magic, to me at least. He always love what I do, he’s super grateful and respectful of others’ work and care. His tracks are usually huge guitar lines so I have an infinite space to fill with vocals, melodies, different influences, I love creating on this kind of patterns. it’s truly inspirational, I love those two tracks.
Who else would you like to collaborate with?
OMG. Collaborating with Greg from Sunn O))) has been pretty unexpected and stunning! I have a few dreams, I can’t even recall them now. Iggor Cavalera drumwise, Joel Grind everything/synthwise, Dorthia Cottrell folkwise. Claudio Simonetti horrorwise. Uh, John Carpenter . Oh, Heilung are pretty dreamy and insane. Well, dreams. Lydia Lunch popped up at my drums soundcheck with Horror Vacui and she said (with her amazing humor): “Not bad….not bad at all! …UNEXPECTEDLY!!!” Ahaha so, yes Lydia Lunch too. My life dream is anyway playing drums for L7 <3
What can we expect from Marthe in the next twelve months? A tour, new songs or what are your plans?
Maybe one live performance, only one, and the writing of the new album for sure. A video diary projection at in-store releases and maybe a photozine. I recently had a dream I would die in 2024 so let’s see if I make all these happen hahah
Now on to the quickfire round:
Which festival would you rather like to play – Beyond the Gates or Roadburn?
Never been to any because I couldn’t afford it so I don’t know. I guess both ahah! I’ll probably try to attend BTG this year because I’m very curious about the Bathory attribute and that’s more than a good reason to go back to Scandinavia (just on vacation).
Favorite Sunn O))) record – Monoliths & Dimensions or Altar?
Altar has some songs I really love <3
Goatsnake or Thorr’s Hammer?
Thorr’s Hammer, anytime in clean vocals is just pure gold.
Favorite Siouxsie and the Banshees record – Juju or Scream?
Pineapple on pizza – yes or no?
Only if you are having a nightmare!!!!!!
For your next vacation – the mountains or the seaside?
Seaside always (but the desolate ones, or those close to the mountains like the region where I come from).
Leather or Denim – preferred fabric?
Anything that, despite the look, has a pijama effect <3
Better Danzig – Samhain or Misfits?
Wolves in the Throne Room or Lamp of Murmuur?
Post-Punk or Stoner?