Splintered Throne – Beware of the ReaperThursday, 29th September 2022
Excelling at a traditional form of heavy metal with classic and power influences from the 70’s/80’s, Oregon’s Splintered Throne perform in a comfort zone based on a style they were exposed to during their youth. Soaring melodies, memorable power rhythms, pounding tempos plus majestic, historical themes on the lyric front will have many thinking of Dio, Judas Priest, and Iron Maiden as you spin the group’s third album The Greater Good Of Man. We reached out to vocalist Lisa Mann who was very happy to give us insight into her role as the latest vocalist, the unique circumstances to develop this material, her background as a full-time musician, plus key insights into pushing your music as an independent artist, the burgeoning Pacific Northwest metal scene, and future hopes to take this show on the road here and abroad.
Dead Rhetoric: You came into Splintered Throne in 2020 – already establishing yourself in other bands and projects over the years. How did you end up joining the band – and did you have any concerns regarding your approach that obviously differs from Brian Garrison’s?
Lisa Mann: I actually joined the band in 2019 – so it was before the pandemic. I was a fan of the band. I would see them open for… Dio’s Disciples. And I love Brian Garrison, a huge fan of the guy. I saw them open for Flotsam & Jetsam, and I didn’t even know they were going to be there, great, they are playing. Brian announced his departure from the band at that gig from the stage. I was there with my friend, she said I should talk to the band and audition. And so I did, and of course I got the audition.
We do have a different approach. He has kind of a James Hetfield influence that I don’t have. I have more of a Bruce Dickinson and Ronnie James Dio approach to my vocals. Very influenced by Bruce Dickinson – it’s funny as a female singer I’m more influenced by male singers than other female singers.
Dead Rhetoric: The Greater Good of Man is the third studio album for the band. What were the songwriting and recording sessions like for this set of material – and where do you see the major differences in this record versus the first two for the band, beyond your contributions as the singer?
Mann: I know the band previously would get together in a room and write together. Exchange ideas that way. The pandemic hit and we couldn’t do that. We ended up doing file sharing, which a lot of bands ended up doing the same thing. Jason Moser guitarist and the main songwriter would send these files to me, I would write the lyrics and the melodies on top of that. “Underdogs” he wrote entirely, and I ended up tweaking the melodies a little bit. I’m a bass player, there were some things that I would message and change, chords here and there to match the vocals I was writing. It was different than what they usually do but it worked out. Finally, we got together and rehearsed these ideas, the bass player Brian Bailey and drummer Kris Holboke would come up with some different things – we also gained a new guitar player, Matt Dorado over this time too, and he had some cool ideas too. It all really came together in the studio, we were finally able to get into the studio, Opal Studio and Primal Studio here in Portland, Oregon – the engineer’s name is Kevin Hahn, he’s a producer, he produced my blues albums and my White Crone albums. He’s a great collaborative producer, using different plug-ins and backups. We are very proud of this album; I think it kicks ass!
Dead Rhetoric: Were there any songs that took on the greatest transformation or proved to be more challenging than others when looking at the original demo level versions until the final output that appears on the record?
Mann: That’s hard to say. I will say “The Reaper Is Calling”, the chorus, the chords that he sent me were quite different than the chords … they weren’t too different, but I’m a blues musician so I added some seventh chords (laughs). We are big on those chords man! I changed some of that, and that sounds radically different than what was sent to me. Jason is just such a great songwriter. He really gets it; we came up with this stuff. We are not thirty-somethings that weren’t even around back (in the eighties), god bless them for keeping the fires burning. Jason gets it, and we just mesh and have things done pretty quickly. I’ve never really co-written much in my career. I mostly write, produce, and record my own records. I’m enjoying it though.
Dead Rhetoric: Where did you want to come across lyrically for this record?
Mann: I’m really influenced by Iron Maiden, so there are a couple of songs that are historical in context. “The Crossing”, Jason had the idea of being about a voyage with ships, so I did some research and there was an ancient African king who disappeared, extremely wealthy. He and his sailors went off into the ocean and were never seen again. That’s the inspiration for this quest for wealth. “Night of the Heathens” is based on The Battle of Ashdown, I wrote that before I saw that tv show about the Saxon tales. It’s based on a true account, where the Norsemen were defeated. This is our answer to the Viking metal bands out there. It’s like anti-Viking metal. “Underdogs” is about people suffering from addiction, overcoming the struggles. Personally, I can relate to that. It is an honor to sing that song, it’s about an important subject matter.
Dead Rhetoric: Your influences take on a mixture of power, progressive, traditional and thrash elements – especially looking back to the 80’s and early 90’s for inspiration. What captivates the musicians within Splintered Throne to write and develop material with a lot of those old school aspects – and is it difficult to remain original in this style considering how long of a history this genre has?
Mann: Yes, and that’s a really fair (assessment). We’ve got a lot of great reviews, but a lot of the reviews say as much as they enjoy the album, it’s not really groundbreaking. But it still sounds fresh, we are playing this old school music, and that is because it’s what we grew up with, what we came up with. Even in my blues band, we are traveling down the road in my van, and we are listening to Sad Wings of Destiny, Powerslave, stuff like that. I don’t know if anything drives us, we carry our influences with us. Jason is influenced by Bay Area thrash, Anthrax, Matt has more progressive influences. It’s just in our bones, really, I don’t think there is any conscious effort to do anything. It just comes out that way.
Dead Rhetoric: As an independent artist, can you discuss the importance of working with a promotional agency like C Squared Music to develop a global reach through your work?
Mann: Oh yes. I was just thinking about that. I really enjoying working with Curtis, Cori, and Holly over at C Squared, because they really do have a global reach. We don’t know what people are going to like – you can think you know; I objectively think this is a killer album. The role of a PR agency is not just for the band being promoted, it’s for the outlets like yourselves. You need content, you need quality content, and you can’t just be going around trying to pick, choose, and filter everything – who has all that time in the day? To be able to rely on a PR firm who says they’ve checked this band out, we think they are worthy of promotion, here is everything you need to check out this band – that is extremely valuable. It’s been valuable to us, and I believe to you as well.
Dead Rhetoric: Absolutely. These PR firms establishes relationships with the websites, radio stations, other outlets and they can curate the styles to fit the proper outlets.
Mann: That’s exactly right. If a PR firm is sending black metal bands to a pop music outlet, that’s not going to work. You have to have that trusted relationship. Booking agencies are the same way. These festivals in the blues scene, they develop relationships with booking agencies that they trust. They know that the bands they offer and going to be quality, professional, and not get drunk and fall of the stage (laughs).
Dead Rhetoric: What do you consider some of the biggest challenges that the band faces when establishing more of a fanbase/following at this point in your career?
Mann: Scheduling is a challenge. This is a five-piece band, and I am a full-time working musician. They have family considerations, work considerations, this is a common story for bands all over the world. Trying to balance your work life, your family life, I have family considerations as well – I am a caregiver for my mother-in-law. We want to get out there live. It just requires a little more finesse, a little more planning. We want to get to Europe, the UK, perform live at some of these festivals. We are itching for that, and we can plan around that anchor date to plan some club dates.
Dead Rhetoric: What would you consider three to five of the most important albums that shaped your outlook on heavy metal (or music) in general? And what’s the best/most treasured concert memory that you have taking in a show as a member of the audience- and what made that so special/memorable to you?
Mann: Wow, that’s hard. King Diamond is an influence for me too, especially for my White Crone project. I love me some tritones, half diminished scales. I was at the first Mercyful Fate show in the United States, it was in Portland, Oregon. They did this meet and greet at this record store called For What It’s Worth Records in Beaverton, Oregon. To have met them, I got Don’t Break the Oath signed, and to see them live – somebody recorded that show so there is a recording of that out there. That show right there is the most memorable.
As far as albums, I was a budding bass player and I started when I was very young. I walked home from school during seventh grade, saving my lunch money to buy my first bass. I was playing Cream, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, stuff like that, Deep Purple. Then a friend of mine handed me a copy of Iron Maiden – Killers. And said you need to listen to this – I was off to the races in Steve Harris land from then on. I woodshedded the first five Iron Maiden albums, played them on bass front to back all the time. And sang along with them, especially after Bruce joined the band. Powerslave is a big influence. Manowar. I got this Manowar record and bought it just based on the album cover. Battle Hymns, with the eagle on it. I ate that album up, another influence singing-wise is Eric Adams. I bought Mercyful Fate – Melissa, just based on the album cover. I remember taking this home, it was a visceral feeling, and I heard the opening chords, that scream, and I was captivated.
Dead Rhetoric: How would you characterize your growth as a musician and vocalist from the early years developing your craft to what you are able to do currently?
Mann: I don’t know. Mostly I sing blues. I am from Charleston, West Virginia originally, so I will have an accent that comes back sometimes. When I sing blues, you hear this accent come out. I’ve been singing the blues for a long time, and I model myself after a lot of male blues singers too. I developed more breath control, a little more stamina. BB King, Ray Charles in there sometimes – Etta James. When I sing metal, the voice is an instrument. You can sound different based on the style. It’s like using a different patch on the guitar – or a different guitar. You use keyboard instead of guitar. A lot of people think I sound English when I sing metal. Because that’s just what I came up with.
The fact that I have worked in the studio over the past few years, making blues albums, I also have rock influences, they allowed me to develop better. I got better in the studio over the years. I am more efficient, understanding better placement, and I have better mic technique. My mic technique live still sucks (laughs). It is what it is.
Dead Rhetoric: What are your thoughts on the metal scene locally in your part of the Pacific Northwest as well as globally? If there are area(s) that you would like to see shift or improved upon, what do you think should be done for the greater good of the movement?
Mann: You are doing this right now. Helping out by spreading the news. I hope more outlets will pay attention to the Portland scene. It’s really buoyant, there’s a new wave of rock and roll scene here. Witch Mountain, Bewitcher, we love Sölicitör, there’s the original Emissary that is out there, we just did a show with them. Greyhawk from Seattle, a lot of really kick ass, old school style bands that are happening here. And a death metal scene that’s burgeoning. I hope it gets more attention.
I come from this blues career, and I have to push, push – get my ASCAP money, my streaming money, all that stuff, sell CD’s. I hope more of these bands will hire PR agencies like C Squared, or another agency that may focus on death metal or what they are doing, expand their reach. It takes a little investment, but we’ve been selling a lot of CDs. I’m packaging them up – a lot of sales in Germany and the UK. Think about that approach with your new releases, as you can only do so much yourself. I find that some of these metal PR agencies are very affordable. The blues PR agencies are bigger, it’s a different thing. It’s a lot more expensive.
Dead Rhetoric: What concerns do you have about the world that we live in today? Where do you think the focus should be for the average person to make things better overall?
Mann: I’m reading a book by a former intelligence officed named Malcolm Nance, some of you may have seen him talk on tv. He has been talking a lot about these armed militia people, getting crazy and threatening people, election workers, feds. That is happening in the Pacific Northwest too. I just think people need to pay more attention. This book is called They Want to Kill Americans. Who is they? It’s your neighbor. Read that book, it will open your eyes.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you balance out careers, families, and the time necessary to do music for Splintered Throne? Do you have the support of your families and significant others in relationship to these band activities?
Mann: Yeah. My husband is a bass player, he plays with a Grammy-nominated artist named Sugarray Rayford, they travel all around the world. It’s tough when he travels, but I have his support. I have some of his gear too. It’s great to have his support, he came down to our gig recently with Emissary, brought a nice monitor down there for me. It’s hard when things get busy. I did a lot traveling for my blues gigs between California to Oregon. It comes in spurts. Every now and then you get these down times and you can recover from that. This album is taking off, doing a lot of interviews, social media – it is wearing me out, sometimes I don’t feel very balanced.
Dead Rhetoric: As a veteran artist in the industry, if you could give any advice to younger musicians, what sort of advice would you give?
Mann: There is a lot. Learn about the business side of things. You have to focus on your craft, that’s one thing of course. Being a better musician, you can’t think you are good enough. It’s the music business, you have to focus on both things. You have to learn about social media, marketing, legal aspects, what I do for a living is scrape money off tables. You want to find as many tables and as many pennies as you can. It’s not like a real estate agent who sells a house for a couple hundred thousand dollars, or an artist who sells a painting for two thousand dollars. You are selling CDs for $10, downloads for $8, selling concert tickets for $10-$20. You have to learn how to maximize that and learn about Sound Exchange, BMI, ASCAP, that sort of thing.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s on the horizon for Splintered Throne over the next year or so as far as live shows, tours, festivals, and promotional activities?
Mann: Right now, we are focused on promoting this album. To get this album into as many earholes as we can around the world. I thank you for helping me do that. Expand our reach and get heard, and that becomes the platform where we can grow. We want to book more gigs, more festivals, maybe tour with another band as well. That’s our plan, and that’s pretty much every band’s plan.