With an EP out in 2016, and an LP out just days ago, Spanish Traditional Heavy Metal band KRAMP have a clear artistic vision, and strong, catchy songs. But what is this NWOTHM stuff all about, anyway, and what is driving it? Tradition seen through the eyes of contemporary take-no-shit youth perhaps? Along with her symphonic cellist brother Lap on bass, Mina’s band combine the solid simplicity of 1980s metal with some fierce individuality, a disregard for the current woes of the world, and a happiness to walk straight over the ashes of your battles. We talk about new album Gods of War, see a band ready to rise and conquer to promote it, and for anyone trying to be too clever about women in metal, kick them full-on in their ( genderless ) nuts. So, as 2020 closes, it is time once again to get out the beers and raise your fists. Are you hellbent-for-leather, or restless and wild?
Hi Mina, what’s lockdown like in Spain?
A fucking turd! Hahahaha. In my case, it’s been so long since we’ve been able to a regular life, that I don’t know how we’ll get use to a normal schedule once this is over. The fucking mask, the time restrictions… I’m ok with the social distance, I hope that remains forever and for good. Because here people gives kisses in the cheeks and stuff like that. No wonder why Spain is on top of charts of covid! KIDS! Respect social distance! I try to take it with humor, because it’s exhausting.
Is the name Kramp something to do with the folklore demon Krampus? Or is it that pain you get in your leg when you put your foot on the monitor and headbang a bit too much?
Any of those, haha. But the barbarian spirit should make it clearer.
How was it recording the new album Gods of Death? How has your new work been received?
It took a long time because we had line up changes and some other issues, but it’s been so hard, that we were forced to learn a lot, haha. We were constantly announcing that we were not playing more gigs because we wanted to record the album, but the problems kept coming and we did a few of those things… but finally, after much work, here’s the album! Sweat and blood, but worth it. The response has been overwhelming… it’s been a long time since the EP came out, so there was a subtle fear of the people with torches demanding a full length ipso facto, haha. But it seems they’re calmed now that it’s out! The reviews have been amazing and people have shown a contagious enthusiasm.
Although your songs seem very simple at first, the more you listen, the more you can tell that the musicianship is strong on the new material. It seems like everyone has been working hard…
Yes… I think that my music seems “easy” at first, but there’s some intricate details, haha. I’ve tried to work with some guitar players in the past, who took my compositions like “pfffff, so this is too easy to play” and then, after trying “ ok, whatever, you’re not a real guitar player, so this doesn’t count anywayssss”. I can’t really say that I see that evolution in composition regarding the EP, because there are some songs in the album that I wrote waaaay before we published the EP. But!
Kim Deal of the Pixies said in the 80s that no man would ever be able to play the bassline to her song Gigantic, because it was too simple for a man to play, and they would ruin it….did she have a point?
She made a point trying to provoque and getting a phrase for the ages.
When did you start playing guitar and keyboards? Do you play primarily for compositional reasons?
When I was a kid I got a toy keyboard and I jammed a lot making silly songs with stupid rhymes. At 14 I got my first drum, but never did anything productive with it, so I moved to guitars. I don’t consider myself a guitar or a keyboard player. I do play mostly for composing, yes.
In the metal scene are guys generally respectful of you as a songwriter and artist, or are they sometimes intimidated?
Both. This world is too wide to find just one type of people, haha. There are major assholes thinking that a woman can’t compose or play metal. It’s not rare to see comments like that.
I remember reading some interviews of Marta Gabriel from Crystal Viper… it is well known that she used to compose everything on her songs. But they kept asking who did write the guitar solos, even after she was answering that she was the author. That happens to me all the time… I keep reading reviews crediting others for my composition. Whatever, maybe they don’t know how to read, hahaha.
What I’ve noticed in my case, is that due to my rich color in the lower notes, some guys get offended! Fuck off… there are many different types of vocals both for males and females. Open your mind and just enjoy what may fancy you, and get over it!
On the other hand, there are many assholes of a different family: the ones that assure that just for being a woman, you’re better than the rest. They even credit you for stuff that you haven’t done, hahaha.
Your 2016 EP sounds like it uses programmed drums – either that or you have a very steady drummer? I was unsure of the sound at first, but, again, the more I listen to it, the more I like it. Assault is a great track…who wrote the songs then, and now?
What do you mean programmed drums! Our beloved and deceased friend Ángel Sasso did an outstanding job. Amazing guy, he was a sweetheart and a true metal machine playing. I’ve been in charge of the songwriting all the time. Also, some songs with my brother.
I wrote Assault in 2014 one September morning, the day 8 (Monday), to be exact, and I know this because I keep the original files, hahaha. That was the first time that I tried to record guitars for a demo song in the very moment, instead of playing keyboards or writing in Guitar Pro. And it was a weird experience because it was a fast composition, everything coming together perfectly like magic, including lyrics. By lunchtime, it was already finished (except the last part… I had the idea in mind, but didn’t know exactly how to put it at that moment). That weekend I won an eating contest and I was euphoric pure berserker mode. That’s the equivalent of hungover for non-drinkers, I guess.
Mina, how long have you been singing? You have a lot of power and edge in the lower notes. Did you study?
If we count the embarrassing early days of tape recording myself singing along to the whole Brave New World album on loop in my room… half my life! Or so… around 14-15 is when I decided that I wanted to sing for real. That’s true, I’m more comfortable in the lower part of my range and that was actually a big problem on my first vocal lessons, answering your other question. A couple of years later, I started going to singing lessons, and at that time: I learned what NOT to do. My teacher was a flute player, and she had an amazing voice, very beautiful singing, but no clue about teaching… so she gave me very bad advices (and some good, of course) and something that didn’t help at all: she miss-catalogued my type of voice.
I dropped those lessons with some problems in my throat that made me unable to sing for a while, bleeding and all that scary shit. But then I decided to explore my vocals in another way and I watched thousands and thousands of videos, and tried many things over the years. A decade after, I went back to singing lessons for a while, just for some months, but what a difference! I would recommend to anyone to take lessons. It doesn’t matter if you’re already a professional singer, but there are many things that can be corrupted and it’s helpful to have someone checking. But the problem is always finding someone that’s capable of doing it right.
What inspired you to start the band? What’s the scene like in Spain for True Heavy Metal?
My love for music, first of all. But I was pretty serious about bringing back the classic heavy metal sound. Back then, there was a huge trend of other sounds that I dislike and bad use of the “heavy metal” term for bands that were not HM. Now here in Spain, there’s a pretty decent scene of cool bands and some decent following for the sound. Not complaining, I’m actually proud… it feels weird whenever someone says “Spain? Oh yeah!!! AMAZING HEAVY METAL BANDS!!!!!”, because back when I started, that was impossible to think of (referring always to active and “new” bands).
Who is in the band and are they involved with other projects?
My brother, Lap, at bass. He also plays cello, guitars, and many other things in many different projects. He’s a badass playing in fancy orchestras! Sara plays guitars, but she plays bass in Rave in Fire. And Albert plays drums.
Me, on vocals… I have some juicy projects in my hands that hopefully will see the light soon!
I think you must have worked hard to get this band together…some people are all talk, and some people are action. Some are good at starting something, but only a few can see it to the end…
There’s a lot of work and dedication behind KRAMP. Not only composing and rehearsing the songs, or trying to put them together, but creating visual content with drawings and designs, merchandise, and a strong image taking care of every detail. Even the smaller ones, like custom labels for shipping.
I don’t know how the rest sees it, but for me KRAMP has its own lore, a small universe, if that makes sense. At least I can assure you that I’ve been giving everything to put every grain together to make this little mountain bigger and bigger each time. To be honest, the band is my life and my life is the band, so expect me around for a while.
I’m a stubborn motherfucker with clear ideas, haha.
The band definitely has a good look. What does the 80s represent to you? Do you ever get to talk to older people about those days? ( I don’t mean old blokes trying to chat you up at gigs, haha! ).
Haha, thanks! I love the 80’s aesthetic and I try to pay some serious attention to that. I absolutely enjoy crafting my outfits. I, like most of the people had an ideal image of the 80’s… which isn’t true, hahaha. But let me dream. JUST LET ME DREAM. For me, the perfect resume is that most of my favorite albums came out in ’84. Heavy Metal bands were playing very actively and making a life of it, without going to mainstream sounds and big projects such as MTV, were supporting it. When I arrived in Madrid, I was 23 and meet much older people than me. I know lots of old people that opened my eyes when I was a bit younger. My old pals telling me that, of course, most of the metalheads back then didn’t wear a battle vest, but instead a wool sweater made by nanny. But the attitude was quite different for what I can see today: More passion, less pose.
You had some good fun making your videos?
We did! We shoot both videos in one day… zero previous experience here, but we’re nuts. To be honest, we didn’t have a budget at all, so we wanted to try and test if the result was good enough or if we had to take a different approach. Turned out good. In the evening, we recorded Gods of Death, and during the night, we did Speed of Light. It was December or November, I don’t know, and it was in my former tiny northern village in Spain, which is fucking cold. That translates to lots of silly dances between takes to get warm because I was wearing no sleeves, haha. But yeah, it was a crazy adventure and super fun! C’mon, we had a fog machine!!! How would that not be fun?
I guess 2020 must be especially frustrating for a band like yourselves with a new album, and keen to tour?. Do you have any idea what the live band situation is going to be in Spain? I guess lots of venues are closing, and may not even reopen? Or did you mainly perform in other countries anyway?
Seems to be pretty bad in the early and mid future, to be honest.
There are many venues closing, the restrictions are going harder and beyond that: people are getting poorer. I mean, even if bands can play, I don’t think many will be able to afford every concert they want to see. And once again, that’ll affect more to the smaller bands of the underground. The truth is that we were counting on playing outside more than here… but, who knows if we’ll be able to travel! Spain has always been a key country for every band to tour, especially German bands. Every time that I see a tour confirmed, I wonder if they’re aware of the situation. I have friends in bands that have tours confirmed here and turns out some didn’t know anything about how things are here! Some are aware and just waiting. Let’s hope they can actually play and kill it without any problem.
I first thought of Accept, but there is also a feeling of Savage Master about the band. Are you in contact with other ‘female-fronted’ traditional metal bands? Maybe bands like Chevalier? Or does that not matter to you?
I would go more for Accept, haha. The old bands will always be my main influence. First of all, I need to say that I don’t think “female-fronted anything” is a genre, so I don’t pay attention to who’s in vocals. I only care if I like or not the band. Of course, I’m in touch with many bands of this generation, and some have amazing women singing… Stellar. Thünndress, Solicitor, Iron Griffin
There’s some people tried to compare Stacey with me, or vice-versa, but I honestly don’t think we’re similar. There’s a funny story… one day on Facebook, I saw a picture of me and a guy tagging Adam (a super nice guy and he took the time to tell me that he loved the EP back then) and Stacey, so angry. SO, SO ANGRY, just throwing shit at me for “copying” her look. We just had much fun putting that guy in place and telling him that, maybe Rob Halford, had more right to claim that we were copying him… I mean: spandex, leather, studs, armors. J. D. Kimball is not here to see that I’m using a shoulder armor inspired in him. And Xena. But yep, he was comparing us just because we’re women. Both bands play obscure heavy metal with an epic touch, but theirs have a totally different personality. Her vocals are super in the vein of Tim Baker and I can’t imagine myself trying to sing “Frost and Fire”, hahaha. Not an inspiration for me, because I started in 2010, way before Savage Master began or at least, knew them. And I’m sure I’m not an inspiration for them, anyway. Chevalier have amazing artworks.
Gender in music is an interesting subject for sure – there are internet groups and even promotional companies dedicated solely to female-fronted metal music. Maybe it’s just western dualism – a desire to categorise and control everything…
I only care about music. This is the kind of tag that ruins the music industry (and some crazy fans) for me. They’re selling the bands like meat… not even the bands, the women in those bands, often relegating men as accessories. I’ve been rejecting openly and criticizing that tag for a very long time, and will never accept it.
I’m not interested in playing in festivals that just want a bunch of women, without any other criteria.
If you’re going for genre: pair me up with traditional heavy metal bands. That makes more sense. What the fuck do I have in common with… Arch Enemy? The most obvious example I can think of… ANYTHING.
The use of that tag is an undercover for discrimination anyway. Search for good music. Period.
80s metal of course had a lot of effeminate looking men. Maybe it is the genre most likely to be truly genderless, then?
In some aspects, yes. Nowadays there’s too much stupid “fight” for inclusivity, which only segregates.
Of course there was machismo and discrimination against women in the 80s! Azuzena, from Santa is a well known icon in the Spanish heavy metal. She had a killer voice, attitude… but you know what? When Santa jumped to stage, there was always assholes screaming at her stuff like “SHOW ME YOUR TITS!” and she replied “SHOW ME YOUR BALLS”, then proceed to give an outstanding show, shutting their mouths.
There were some girls used only for their image, but we also have the always amazing Dio, taking under his wing powerful singers like Ann Boleyn or Leather Leone.
What are the plans for 2021 and beyond?
“Same thing we do every night, Pinky: Try to take over the world!”
More albums, more gigs, more live streams, more videoclips, more whatever it can be done, but done right!
Quick questions to end:
Do you drive? Do you like cool cars?
I’ve been studying for some months to have my license once this are more calmed here.
I don’t usually pay much attention to cars, but when I say “oh, that’s a cool car!” turns out it’s a Lamborghini or a Jaguar. No idea.
Favourite metal albums right now?
I’ve been listening a lot Solicitor’s album ‘Spectral Devastation’.
The last one I bought was Wytch Hazel’s and has been on loop for a while. Els Focs Negres is one of those obscure surprises that I’ve been enjoying a lot. That for this year releases. For old farts, I recently discovered Brazen Abbot and I’m hooked. Maybe not the most “metal” album, but with some tracks of elegant heavy metal, very inspired by Rainbow. Another of those amazing guitar players inspired by Blackmore and Malmsteen (always in that order, please), who hired some of his former vocalists, like Joe Lynn Turner. I’m a big fan of him, but his legacy is so immense that I haven’t heard everything, of course. So I discovered this by accident and I’m in love. Mostly ‘My Resurrection’ album. In this album, we can hear as well Göran Edman and Tony Harnell on vocals, so it’s very dynamic and fun to listen.
Favourite singers of any music style?
Dio, Eric Adams, J.D. Kimball, Halford & Dickinson, Mike Howe, Midnight, Joe L.T., Udo…
What makes you happy?
Music. And potatoes.
What makes you really angry ( don’t say interviews, please )?
Bad interviews, hehe. I love answering good questions that make me thing or say something of some interest but hate BAD INTERVIEWS. But meh. My angry list could go on and on and on: -Picking up the ugly spoon all the time. -My printer asking me to change the cartridge for no reason. -Being hungry. -People invading my personal space. -When someone says that we’re a mixed band (like a sandwich) (no, I actually just roll my eyes). -Comic Sans on posters. -People in general, usually. Hehe.
Do you have non-musical hobbies?
Drawing and graphic design, that’s actually my other big thing.
DIY all the shit that I can, making lists (so thank you, I’m enjoying this very much), puzzle videogames, Age of Empires II, weird history facts…
Have you played Witcher 3? We keep playing it over and over in this house.
I tried many years ago, but stopped when I had to do potions and stuff, hahaha. I’m not good at following games with storylines.
What’s the most mind-blowing weird fact you know?
About history, you mean? A couple hahaha.
Genghis Khan horsemen did “invented” hamburgers.
While riding to Russia, they solved the food problem by putting raw meat under the saddle so it will grind and cook with the friction. Then on the ride, they’ll just pick some meat and eat it.
And dog’s poop was a treasure known as “pure” in Victorian Era. There was even a job just for picking those. The shit was sold to treat leather and soften it.
Where do you see yourself in 20 years?
20 seems like a cursed number right now!
Not the best time to make bets about the future, haha.
How would you change the world, in a sentence?
No humans. That’ll be cool. Hehe.
That’s three sentences… 🙂
Well… I’ll change it to: “Stop procreating with birth purposes, please.”