Nervosa – Swirling in ChaosSunday, 17th January 2021
Maintaining proper vision and focus when you’ve established a dedicated fanbase can be difficult when there are significant lineup changes. Brazilian thrash band Nervosa has expanded to a four-piece from its trio lineup – losing vocalist/bassist Fernanda Lira and drummer Luana Dametto who started their own death metal act in Crypta. Main guitarist Prika Amaral has not given up, taking on the main songwriting mantle and assembling a formidable lineup that is now cross continental with European musicians such as bassist Mia Wallace of Italy, drummer Eleni Nota of Greece, and vocalist Diva Satanica (Rocio Vazquez in real life) of Spain.
Perpetual Chaos is the fourth Nervosa album, one gaining significant buzz because of its extreme death/black angles at times while not diminishing their brutal thrash platform that has always been a standard that the band deliver. Channeling aggression and anger into this explosive sound, they should garner respect and admiration because of sticking to their guns and ideals of what they want to get across musically and lyrically. We reached out to Diva Satanica through Skype who brought us up to speed on the new lineup, the album recording, the personal development and tools she used to get stronger as a vocalist, plus a bit of behind the scenes thoughts on her day job as a psychiatric nurse and juggling her work with another band Bloodhunter.
Dead Rhetoric: Nervosa has gone through a major lineup change, as there are three new members including yourself surrounding guitarist Prika. How did this specific lineup come into being, and were there any fears or worries about the abilities to live up to what Nervosa has established over the years?
Diva Satanica: Oh yes for sure, because Fernanda has been a very talented artist and she’s had an amazing career with Nervosa for so many years. We also have different vocal registers so for me, it was hard to find my place. I’ve always been singing in a death metal project, and Nervosa is much closer to the thrash metal scene so I had to think about how to be with the vocals now. We tried something closer to Fernanda’s register with my own identity still intact – so I am very happy and thankful for that.
This is for sure a new era and a new moment for this new project that we all call Nervosa but with different musicians. We are very excited about the future.
Dead Rhetoric: Perpetual Chaos is the new album – establishing a heavier and sometimes more extreme presence while still maintaining a strong thrash base. How did the songwriting and recording sessions develop for this – did you have any specific standards or goals you wanted to achieve for Nervosa that hopefully will still maintain the already established fanbase and bring new people into the fold?
Diva: Having Prika as a founding member, it makes us sure that the Nervosa essence will still be intact. The thrash style is there, but having three new members changes things a little bit. Everyone has a chance to add their personal background. Mia has been involved in black metal scene for a long while with Abbath and Triumph of Death, and Eleni has worked with a lot of progressive metal bands, and these are things that are different that Nervosa never had before.
Dead Rhetoric: You recorded the album with producer Martin Furia in Spain – what did you enjoy most about working with Martin and how did he help shape or improve the final output, were there any specific areas he helped you vocally with to get the best out of you?
Diva: Yes, he is an amazing producer. He totally understands what Nervosa needs because he was the producer for the previous album also. It was nothing new for him, except for the fact that we are different musicians. He understands the Nervosa essence and what we want to preserve for the fanbase. He understood my vocal range is different than Fernanda’s so I have something different than the vocal fry technique. I have to sing shorter phrases but I have more volume, so we had to think about the phrases and read them. Something that in the beginning you may not think about but it’s important, it makes things a little different than the previous album. He really helped us a lot. He’s an amazing lyricist, he helped us with the final arrangements and with lyrics. We are thankful with Martin and he did an amazing job.
Dead Rhetoric: What did you want to get across for some of the main topics lyrically on this set of songs? And do you find that the listeners gain just as much from strong lyrical content as they do the musical impact for Nervosa?
Diva: The topics deal with human behavior, all the terrible things that we’ve been creating on this planet Earth. War, capitalism, animal abuse, even with drugs in the song “Under Ruins”. It’s a wider perspective than the previous albums, we just sum up things that human beings have been creating over many centuries.
It would be weird if I was talking about flowers or something and screaming like a crazy woman. We have to have the common point of view with the anger in my approach with the music, the feeling of wrath and talking about things that we don’t like or encouraging people to fight against all the horrible things that exist in this world.
Dead Rhetoric: Tell us about the video shoot for “Guided by Evil” – was this an obvious song from the record to capture visually, and what memories do you have most regarding the filming of this video?
Diva: It was pretty funny. We had to film this video clip when we were in the studio working on the album, we were in the middle of the pandemic. We wanted to avoid taking another flight again, so we did it at the same time as the recording sessions. We filmed it at night in the surroundings of the studio. We worked all day long in the studio, at night we wanted to represent this new ritual of starting this new era. Having something from the new lineup playing all together. I remember we just looked at each other and thought that this was our very first time playing together – we don’t know when we will do this again. So we enjoyed this as it was very special for us.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you feel about the visual medium when it comes to the promotion of the band – as you also did a series of documentary videos that chronicle the making of the record along with interviews, did it make you self-conscious as you were performing or just became second nature?
Diva: I think it’s important, especially in this time that we are living in, the pandemic situation, to have this connection with the fans showing what we are doing in real time. Especially for us, we are doing this fresh start with the new musicians, people just want to know this new era and how it’s going to sound. We don’t have the chance to play live shows, so to document it’s a good chance to show more of what happens behind the scenes. We didn’t think about somebody filming while we were doing this. It was just like we were working and somebody grabbed the camera. Sometimes it was Prika, sometimes it was Martin, a lot of times it was when they were around us working in the studio. It came pretty natural, except for the interviews. It’s been a good thing to do, and it will be very good for new fans.
Dead Rhetoric: What would surprise people the most regarding the current lineup of Nervosa? Do you believe it’s important to establish friendships and downtime away from your musical activities as a band, so that you can handle the stress/pressures that take place through recording, touring, and business ventures?
Diva: Yes, sure. Many people are involved on a personal level, you can work together when things are going good but you need that personal connection with your bandmates. It’s not only fun, you are working together for something important for everybody. I feel very lucky, we were strangers when we started this new lineup and now I feel like we have met for over a thousand years. It’s an amazing feeling.
Dead Rhetoric: What goals does Nervosa set for themselves at this stage in your career – especially given the strong touring aspects that have been established not just in South America, but all across the globe?
Diva: I saw Nervosa on stage a lot of times before I joined the band, they are amazing live. I feel the pressure, but everybody is so excited about this new era it’s going to be fantastic. We are very anxious to hit the stage altogether. We are thinking about how our live shows will be. We are four people, not three – and I do not have to stand still because I don’t have an instrument as Fernanda did in the past. Things will change, and our goal is to continue to be better.
Dead Rhetoric: What are some of the toughest lessons you’ve learned in your own personal musical journey – and how do you handle some of the struggles, frustrations, and obstacles that may be placed before you?
Diva: Maybe when you think you know everything, you are wrong. You have to work very hard, every day. This is a long ride, it’s not just I want to be a singer, grab a mic and that’s all. You have to practice, and do a lot of different things more than singing. Promotion is very important, filming videos is very important, being able to speak some languages. I’m Spanish, so English is very important to communicate with other fans from other parts of the world. Even Portuguese, I had to learn a little bit to communicate with the Brazilian fans. You have to do anything that is in your hands to improve your skills.
About my frustrations, well when I started to sing I wanted to quit like a thousand times. I didn’t have a teacher to teach me how to growl or scream. I’ve learned that you have to ask for help if you need it.
Dead Rhetoric: Did you end up taking vocal lessons after this fact, and sought out different people to improve your technique?
Diva: Yes. I had this idea of watching tutorials because I couldn’t find a teacher. And I remember going to a lot of music schools and the people couldn’t understand that I wanted to learn how to growl and not to sing clean vocals. I got very frustrated about this. The secret is to study other vocalists and their performances. I went to a lot of shows, being in the front row, staring at the singers – they may have thought I was crazy (laughs). That was very good for me, I was able to understand how it works for the body to breathe and all that important stuff with the facial expressions and things that help you project the sound. Going to a lot of concerts, and even watching live shows and recording sessions from other vocalists at home it’s been the thing that helped the most. When I would ask vocalists how they do this, nobody said (anything) that I could understand. For me it was a real struggle.
Dead Rhetoric: Your day job working as a psychiatric nurse contrasts your metal endeavors. Do you find that you are able to channel some of the heaviness and emotional/mental challenges from your work as a nurse into your singing and work within heavy metal as a cathartic release? And do people ask about your metal journey in your day job, or do you keep things separate?
Diva: Yeah. Some years ago, I think it was like three years ago, I was on the tv show The Voice as a participant. I remember the first day I went back to my job, in the waiting room people stood up and clapped at me. I knew that they had seen me on television. They knew everything about me. It was scary because having this stage name Diva Satanica and working in psychiatry it’s different – there are a lot of people that have trouble with religious themes and their relationship to heavy metal, schizophrenia and things like that. My boss was not happy with my decision to go to the tv show, but finally I felt relief. Having different sides of myself in my life is good for me, now I feel much more confident about this. It’s okay for me to talk about.
Working as a psychiatric nurse taught me a lot of important things about life. People who suffer don’t have this prejudice about life in general. They don’t judge me, I’ve learned that when you have to just flow and not expect anything concrete.
Dead Rhetoric: You also have worked as a metal journalist for a heavy metal magazine. How was that experience and did you enjoy looking at the scene from that perspective?
Diva: I learned a lot. I discovered a lot of new bands, and bands from the underground I really liked. It was a great experience. I’ve been working for ten years for La Heavy. It was very difficult for me though to be in two bands, have a day job, and doing all this work. It was complicated, and I was trying to do a lot of things. I decided to take a break from that, but when I have some more free time I’d like to write again.
Dead Rhetoric: Will you still be continuing with Bloodhunter as you do Nervosa, or are you choosing one band over the other?
Diva: Yes, obviously Nervosa is the priority now because Nervosa plays a lot of live shows and is on tour very frequently. Bloodhunter is more of an underground project, we just play on the weekends because everyone has a day job and when you have that playing in a band is not the priority. They all understand in Bloodhunter the situation, we talked about this before I joined Nervosa. We’ll play live shows when Nervosa has some days off, and hopefully I don’t know when this will happen this year but let’s cross fingers and let’s see.
Dead Rhetoric: Until things open up touring-wise due to the pandemic, how have you been spending this time to stay sharp mentally, emotionally, and physically?
Diva: I’m very lucky because nobody in my family felt ill. We are all doing good, and that’s amazing. That’s the most important thing for me. I didn’t lose that feeling of a daily routine because I have to work anyways. During these months we wrote a new album, and we did a Bloodhunter album too. It’s been a busy time for me. I didn’t have the feeling of getting bored. I live in the countryside, so I can go on a daily walk with my dog with all proper precautions.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you view the heavy metal scene in 2021, what excites you and what worries you about what’s going on?
Diva: Well, I don’t want to think much about this as I don’t want to be frustrated again. I hope that this new year with the vaccinations will be different. I don’t know if big festivals will be back as much as we want that. Maybe there will be some small venue shows, or open air things for the arts that would be fantastic. We can’t wait to hit the stage together.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you see the rest of 2021 into next year shaping up for Nervosa in terms of activities, touring, festival appearances, and other promotional endeavors?
Diva: I don’t know. We had a lot of shows booked for this year, and we don’t know what will happen. Probably the first dates will be next July, we have some summer festivals and dates around Europe. One year ago we had booked a North American tour with Amorphis and we had to postpone. We don’t know if that can happen again this year, it would be fantastic. We are working on documentaries, and another video clip that we will release very soon as we don’t know when we will play. In the following months we will work on another album, we want to keep as busy as we can.