Karyn Crisis – Gospels of the Witch Part I

Wednesday, 4th March 2015

The name Karyn Crisis was first put onto the metal map back in the 1990s with her work fronting the experimental metal/hardcore band Crisis. While the group attained a cult-like status to some, the band never really hit the super-hype levels that many bands have reached for within the scene. She was also one of the first women in extreme metal to employ a varied vocal approach that made many unfamiliar with the band think that there were two vocalists – one male and one female. When Crisis closed up shop in 2006, Karyn all but disappeared.

She re-emerged a few years ago, doing vocals for her husband Davide Tiso’s band Ephel Duath. Not soon after, she announced her latest project, Gospel of the Witches (also a collaboration with Tiso) and posted a Kickstarter to help raise funds for its completion. Eventually signing with Century Media Records, we’ve now come to the point where Gospel of the Witches debut album Salem’s Wounds is set to be released.

Karyn Crisis is a deeply spiritual and multi-talented woman. Outside of music, she is a practicing shaman/witch/healer, as well as a medium, artist, and leather-worker. So it didn’t take any convincing to take up an offer to catch with this influential frontwoman about her past with Crisis as well as her future with Gospel of the Witches. Not to mention her spirituality and its influence on her music.

Dead Rhetoric: Being one of the first females in the extreme metal scene, do you get a lot of women that tell you that you were a big influence on them?

Karyn Crisis: I do, I get just as many men saying that too. So I’m not sure if the difference is because I’m a woman or because of the way that I express myself.

Dead Rhetoric: That’s cool, I wouldn’t have expected as many males though I can see why that might be.

Crisis: I guess more from the male side of things, I do have some men saying that I’ve been an influence vocally but a lot of them have said that I have been inspirational in, musically, getting them through hard times. With women, some of them tend to talk about those same things but of course, then the vocal style and being in bands, and being an inspiration that way.

Dead Rhetoric: What are some of your first memories of first getting on the stage with Crisis back in the early ‘90s?

Crisis: In the early ‘90s it was very different. As a band we were trying to make connections with other bands in NYC, and a couple of the guys in the band had been involved in the scene. But there was definitely a negative attitude towards bands with women. In fact when Crisis started, their bass player at the time, who was not the Crisis bass player, he did not even want to even consider the idea of having a female singer, whereas the guitar player and the drummer wanted to go in that direction. He said, “It’s either her or me.” So he left, as it was a big challenge for him to deal with that. Then when we were, as a band, trying to make connections with other bands in NYC, we saw people not really so interested in extending that ally hand.

So Crisis did start playing some shows in NYC, but we thought, well if we have to go outside of the city, we’ll go outside the city. So we started making second, third, and fourth homes for ourselves. Albany, NY was the first place we went to where musically people were very open-minded and super creative and it had its own pocket there. Then we played a lot of the hardcore scenes in Massachusetts and the New England areas. It was really different for the crowds then, but it was just a matter in those days of getting on stage and showing what you had to offer musically. Either people got the emotional quality of it or not. We never really had any trouble winning them over, in terms of the intensity that came out of us on stage. I was never afraid of an unfriendly audience or unfriendly promoters or people that would come up and threaten me while I was at the merch table alone, who would tell me they were going to beat me up. My attitude was always “okay, bring it on.” I’m here alone, if you have a problem with me I’ll deal with it.

But the music scene in general was different in those days. You had to get your hands dirty. I’m really proud to have grown up in the East Coast music scene. It was very eclectic I think, but it could be very dangerous. There was nothing sterile, or neat and tidy about it. You had to be able to protect yourself. I did have to grab someone’s balls here or there, I had to do what I had to do, until other people came to help me out. Luckily it’s not still that way, it’s not the best way to have to deal with things. I think people thought that because I was a woman and I didn’t look like a typical woman and I was very small. They were like, oh what are you doing, you are an alien in the scene. They didn’t want to wait and see what I had to offer. After the show, people would show a great amount of respect. But beforehand, when I was just someone on the floor, people would see how far they could push me.

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