quinta-feira, 27 de junho de 2013

This interview was originally posted in Portuguese.
Click here to read all interviews we've made available in English.

Couple of years ago, it was normal to people say that extreme metal singer were amateurs that can just scream. But time changed and even beyond the genre professional singers started recognize harsh vocal techniques. Melissa Cross is one of the biggest references with her singing lessons and already released 2 instructive DVD's entitled Zen Of Screaming. A lot of Metal fans already heard her name, but if you're not familiar, you may probably know some of the bands that took her lessons: Slayer, Lamb Of God, Arch Enemy, Cradle Of Filth, Machine Head, Slipknot, Exodus, Suicide Silence, Trivium e many others. 
We had a chat with Melissa about vocal technique and she told us some tips for those who want to become a professional singer. Besides that, she also answered some question from Brazilian singer send by Mizuho Lin e Sergio Mazul (SEMBLANT), Odommok (FROST DESPAIR) and Adriano Pasini (ARMADA SA e BARRABÁS SOCIETY).

ALL THAT METAL: What's up Melissa, how are you doing? First of all, can you tell us a little bit more about your work and how do you started everything 'til you get to the point of releasing "The Zen Of Screaming"?
MELISSA CROSS: After I had been teaching for about 8 years, a friend of mine who was a producer from Connecticut, was recording some underground bands that were very fast and loud, and couldn't get through a recording session without them coughing blood, he asked if there was anything I could do.  The band was Killswitch Engage.  Fast forward a few years, word got around in the community that I had figured out a way to get these sound without vocal damage.  The community is tight and everyone and their friends came to see what it was all about and the genre itself became increasingly popular.  It got to the point where there were too many people that needed this information, too many for me to teach one on one, and it was clear that there was a need for easily available instruction.  I never dreamed that The Zen Of Screaming would be as popular as it has become.  Its not only for metal screamers, the same exercises work for all genres of music.

ATM: Please, tell to our readers some of the notable singers that are your "students".
MELISSA: The list is as long as the cue for the toilet at a festival!  You can view it at the homepage of  my website and I am very grateful for the wonderful people that have come my way.

ATM: Long ago, people seemed to not take this kind of vocal seriously. Now things are changing and jokes about the Cookie Monster voice are ending. Do you believe you are a important part of this revolution in Metal music?
MELISSA: Without trying to sound conceited, the fact that there is a way to make this sound in a healthy way was the reason why vocal damage was no longer considered a 'cool right of passage' for lead singers.

ATM: What's the main advice you can give for people that want to start singing?
MELISSA: First, check your motives. Secondly, if you are trying to do this professionally, if you can be happy in doing anything else, then do that.  The life of a lead singer is only enjoyable to those who feel they will experience an emotional/spiritual death if they don't do it. Don't over think it, don't cut corners, but don't imitate and if it hurts its wrong.

ATM: Can you list the types of harsh vocals we find nowadays in Rock/Metal?
MELISSA: There is a way that you could scientifically describe what throats are doing, and some people will say that certain sounds belong with certain types of metal, however I think it all just goes in the category of using the voice in a way that has never before been acceptable.  That being said, nowadays it is okay to completely obliterate pitch all together and scream.  Some singers maintain a pitch in their singing, some do not, and most do both.  Its really all about whats happening in their throats.  The one that has the best control has the most tour longevity and best sound.

ATM: Metal singers are a really strange specie. Have you ever went through some kind of funny situation with one of them?
MELISSA: My favorite moment was with D. Randall Blythe, (Lamb of God) in pursuit of his hobby of collecting bullwhips.  After a lesson, he asked me where he could find bullwhips in Manhattan, and the only location I could come up with were some of the basement deviant sex shops on Christopher Street.  I went with him to find a bullwhip, and having found one, we took it to the cash register.  The girl behind the register asked, "Is this for you, or for her?"  I said, "Its for both of us, I'm his mother."  This girl was beet red and clearly was not ready for my answer.

ATM: We're doing a series of posts celebrating the legacy of Ronnie James Dio this week. I want to know what you think about the music of this legendary singer.
MELISSA: Ronnie James Dio is one of the greatest singers of all time.  Period end of story.

ATM: We have a couple of questions from Brazilian singers for you:
"Can you tell us about warm up exercises and some exercises required after singing? Also, I would like to know what kind of recomendations should we take to take care of the voice through the years."
- Odommok, Frost Despair

MELISSA: My DVD The Zen of Screaming, has exercises regarding speech and singing that address complete care of the vocal instrument.  There is no scientific evidence that warm-down exercises are of any benefit, however whatever a singer thinks is of benefit to him or her, IS whether it is scientifically sound or not.  The voice is operated by the imagination and the mind is a powerful thing.

"We know that when performing harsh vocals we have to push the false cords. But how we can get a higher potency, not letting fall down on the true vocal cords?" 
- Mizuho Lin e Sergio Mazul, Semblant

MELISSA: The way that you have asked the question indicates to me that you are not clear that their are different types of screams.  One that uses false cords would engage the true cords by definition.  The false cords do not make frequency, they do not vibrate a pitch.  It is the true cords that are covered up by the closure higher up in the neck of the false cords that generate a voiced sound and the raising of the voice box in a high place creates the distorted aspects of the sound.  Whenever you hear a voice i.e., a sung pitch or the voice of speaking in a singers sound, it is coming from the true cords, and I have seen that first hand in a laboratory.  The scream that does not have any voice in it, the scream which I call 'Fry' in my Zen of Screaming 2 DVD, involves the true cords coming together and vibrating in a chaotic fashion so that there is not a discernible pitch but rather a chaotic vibration that sounds like white noise.

"I've learned by an empirical method how to do the vocal technique that Corey Taylor applied on the 'Iowa' record. I lock the muscles of the abdomen and notice the neck muscles tensing as well, so that the vocal cords vibrate with the pressure to make the distortion. It really is very powerful, but usually causes me headaches when I press too much, as for lyrical singing. The pains are so strong that I need to lie down slowly to relieve the pain. How do I use the same voice power without taking the health risks?"
- Adriano Pasini, Armada SA e Barrabás Society

MELISSA: You desperately need my DVD and Corey Taylor did 'Iowa' before he studied with me, and his technique caught up with him eventually, where he became my student during the tour for Subliminal Verses.  The thing that has spared you vocal disaster is you are probably capable of very good sub-glottal pressure, meaning that your diaphragm is strong and is able to hold the air behind the vocal cords when you are making these extreme maneuvers.  your pain happens when you lose that connection, and it is most likely lost due to a lack of control. You need help. What becomes problematic is that when you become physically sick or you lose sleep and you are on a tour, and your technique is inconsistent is when you are looking at serious vocal damage. When you are on tour you have no time to recuperate.

ATM: And now, my personal question: I'm facing some difficulties to keep the tune when doing inhaling growls. What kind of exercises do you recommend to fix that?
MELISSA: For inhale screaming, the vocal folds are doing what they do precisely what my "Fry" scream however the air is going in the opposite direction, because that is a chaotic vibration the pitch is negligible.  If you were to attempt to perceive a pitch from inhale screaming, the pitches would be within 3 or 4 half steps.  That is because in order for a true pitch to be perceived, the true cords must vibrate at a specific cycles per second to create that pitch.  Pitch is defined by cycles per second.  False cord voice production involves pitch and true cords, and additional distortion from tissues further up in the pharynx to create the distortion.

ATM: Before we finish, please tell us what bands and artists you usually listen to. It doesn't matter if it's Metal or not.
MELISSA: I listen to such a variety of music, a lot of it is new material of the bands that I work with, I am lucky to get advanced preview of all my wonderful clients.  My tastes are not exclusive to metal.  I like everything good.

ATM: Thanks for you time, Melissa! Please leave a message to our readers and singers.
MELISSA: If you are going to do it, do it right and always put your best foot forward. Don't let anyone listen to music that isn't the best it can be.  And remember; as much as music means to you and despite the fact that there is no greater love than you have for your music, nobody cares.  But you can make them care if by some chance you take them to another level in their mundane existence and give them moments of happiness by creating great music.

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