Interviews

Interview with extreme metal goddess Vanessa Alucarda

I don’t want to rant about females (or their relative lack of) in the extreme metal, because I actually hate to talk about stuff like that – it actually doesn’t matter. I – and we all should – measure a person’s contribution to any art (or anything) by their input, not by their sex, but I guess many people would lost their jobs not ranting about some gender issues.

But it’s still great to see women playing metal, and while we all are accustomed to Lita Ford or The Great Kat, women in the extreme metal underground is still a welcome sight. So, with that being said, let me introduce you, our readers, to one of the busiest females in the underground, the one and only Vanessa Alucarda, a.k.a. Alucarda Bellows.

Hello, Vanessa and thank you for your time! First things first – as our readership base consists of not only metal people, I think it would be appropriate to let you introduce yourself. So, what would Vanessa let people know about Vanessa?

I’m into a lot of things. Too many things and sometimes it drives me mad, haha! I’ve been referred to as an enigma. I love to write in notebooks (I usually keep around 10 at a time for different purposes: lyrics, poems, daily journaling, features for my books, etc.) and music on my guitar. I carry a notebook everywhere I go because ideas are constantly coming to me for songs, poems, lyrics, stories, etc. Even when I’m doing daily journaling and the monotonous planning of my workloads for the day I still like to be creative in whatever I’m writing. If I’m not doing any of that I’m reading, watching movies (mostly horror and/or exploitation), listening to music (all kinds), or getting lost in the YouTube void (especially my favorite channels Ask a Mortician and Cinemassacre).

How did you actually get into the music? And how that road has lead you into the extreme, underground metal?

Music has always been a major part of my life. My dad was always playing in local bands and had a pretty badass record collection that focused on the essentials such as CCR, STEPPENWOLF, BLACK SABBATH, DEEP PURPLE, BLUE OYSTER CULT, …I could go on. But when I was 7, looming on the age of 8 I discovered thrash metal in the form of METALLICA. This was right before the Black Album came out and I unintentionally bought all their albums in order of their release. I was into thrash but quickly knew I wanted something more extreme with content more suitable for me. I discovered CANNIBAL CORPSE when I was about 9 or 10 and that was IT for me. From there it was MORBID ANGEL, DEICIDE, CARCASS, DEATH, etc.

Obviously the following years I kept reaching for new sub-genres and eventually when I discovered black metal around 17/18 that changed my life pretty much because it changed the way I wanted to write music. I was still into death metal, thrash, doom, etc and I knew I wanted to incorporate all styles but black metal was an obsession from day one.

As far as I can ascertain – and I can be wrong, so I beg your pardon – you have started your career in Slash Dementia, and there’s not much (if anything at all) to be found about this death metal band from Chicago. Can you lift the veil of dusty past and shed some light about this band? In the same vein, can you also reveal some details about your involvement in another obscure band you were in, namely Red Harlow?

Red Harlow was something I did in my room all by myself, just me with my guitar from the ages of 12-14 years old. Many tapes were lost over the years and I literally only salvaged one tape from 1996 with 7 songs on it. I put it up on Myspace years ago and many people really dug it which was kinda funny to me but really cool. I have one song on YouTube and I’ve entertained uploading all seven songs. Who knows?


SLASH DEMENTIA was the reason I moved to Chicago. The band started out with myself and another member who went by the name Deimos, and the potential of two other members, but they never came through and the songs weren’t coming together well. So I with Deimos decided to go on our own and switch up to being a black metal duo which we named WOLFHOLLOW. We named the band WOLFHOLLOW after a place I grew up in Kentucky (a hollow on a hill in a small town named Manitou. Venom, anyone?) Once we had that name and I came in with some pieces of music I had written since my teen years, we built the project from there and went on a writing spree, mostly writing separately actually but then collaborating when we began the recording process. Unfortunately, we only did one full-length album, various EPs and a split but I had 90% of the second album written when we decided to split ways and I moved back to Kentucky. Since then I’ve used most of the material for my various bands over the years but I do actually have some unused material I plan to rework and use for something one day. Nothing goes to waste.

Demise of Slash Dementia led to a creation of a black metal band Wolfhollow, along with another musician going under the pseudonym Deimos. Although going through genres is not uncommon, was there any reason you went from death metal in Slash Dementia to black metal in Wolfhollow?

I think when we found the songs weren’t coming together as SLASH DEMENTIA with just the two of us, we both turned to our main love which was black metal and knew it was more… “acceptable” if you will to be a duo doing black metal versus a duo doing death metal. Plus we both enjoyed playing and writing acoustic pieces and ambient tracks as well. We both concluded with black metal the canvas is a little more vast.

You have released Wolfhollow’s CD through your own label, Demonslave Recordings. That brings up a question – did you feel it important to have an imprint to release your music as opposed to just independent, band, DIY – if you wish – release? Also, seeing that Wolfhollow was the only artist in Demonslave, haven’t you had any plans to continue with that label, or, in the recent years, to revive it?

I did want to revive it about a few years ago but decided to leave it in the past. Late last year I created HexeCoven Records to move forward with instead. Something fresh and something broad to span thrash, doom, death, black, etc. As for my own releases, I like to oversee everything in the process and make sure the final product is something I am happy with and I feel is representative of my work. That’s why most of the time I like to put my own music out and a majority of my releases will be on HexeCoven Records from now on.

Songs themselves inspire me to ask this following question – I can see the shift from the not-that-original winter/North worship to the more interesting Egypt-inspired stuff. Also, it was evident even in that early stage of your career you were a fan of horror movies, as evidenced in the sound samples used in the songs. What has prompted this shift in the themes and how did you recall your start, your – let’s call it – initiation into the horror/cult movies?

Well, the theme of winter/North can be original according to what the artist does with it and the level of poetic license put into the work. The aesthetic could be winter/North but when you dissect the lyrics you’ll find a deeper impetus underneath the bone and sinew of its workings. As for horror, I’ve been a horror fan since I was 2 years old. Movies like Children of the Corn, The Shining and A Nightmare on Elm St. (Freddy was my boyfriend when I was a young lass) were in my life from a very early age (again, 2 years old). It was a given when I was looking for heavier-than-thrash metal and found CANNIBAL CORPSE which matched the horror movies and comics I was in love with that I finally found what I had been looking for all those years. So I was a horror fan first then a fan of metal.

Wolfhollow has eventually met its end. Why?

Conflict of interest and lack of motivation.

I hope I am covering your career chronologically 🙂 so in the next part we’re gonna deal with Twist Ending. According to information available, it started back in 2008 and in its 7 years’ run this band has produced only one – but highly enjoyable – demo (from 2014), called “Musica di Morte”. How do you recall playing, what’s can be described as giallo-inspired metal? Also, you collaborated on this one with Stevo, the famous gorehound from Impetigo…. How would you rate this co-operation and do you plan to revive this band/project in any forseeable future? Say yes, please!!! 🙂

I “joined” TWIST ENDING in 2013. The band started before I was with Razorback and lay dormant for many years until it was revived, and suddenly I was writing the songs, writing lyrics and covering guitar and bass duties. Gregg Swine (my current drummer for CAULDRON BURIAL) came onboard as well as Stevo and we all pulled together to produce the weirdo demo I still love and am very proud of. I get people asking about the band which is unfortunately dead, and they all say the same thing essentially which is “[the demo is] weird but so damn good!”

Another band you were active in was Scaremaker, where you joined forces with Elektrokutioner, know from more bands than I can count, and your ex-husband, Billy. This is probably the first one of the bands, where you lay a familiar framework to work on, namely an aggressive death/thrash metal combined with horror movies inspired lyrics. But as this band is split up now, was the urge to continue in this direction the motive behind creating your other bands?

SCAREMAKER was a fun band and it was the first real PROFESSIONAL release I ever had, so it will always hold a special place in my discography. Back in 2010, Billy and I flew to Texas to record the album at our drummer Elektrokutioner’s lair and a few extra EP songs in a span of 4-5 days. The impetus behind it is the same impetus I’ve always had behind my music. Everything I do has had a horror theme behind it or at least the dark arts.

Your frequent collaborator, already mentioned above, was/is Wayne Sarantopoulos, a.k.a. Elektrokutioner. How did you two meet and what can you tell us about working with this busy guy?

I met him through Billy who had released previous bands of Wayne’s on RAZORBACK. I really enjoyed working with Wayne because I could say, “I need a drum track with mostly SLAYER beats and a doom interlude” and I would get it. We shared odd communication but it worked. It’s very unfortunate we still don’t work together but he went his way and I’ve gone mine. I invited him back for the second CAULDRON BURIAL album and he agreed to get me drum tracks by October of 2016 but he never came through. I have nothing bad to say about him at all, and I wish things could have continued with him but it’s just how things happened.

I can’t forget to mention Skeletal Spectre and it was quite refreshing to hear also your more doomish, clean voice as opposed to growls in other bands. This one was an international collaboration, so obviously, I can’t skip the question – why did you join this project and whose decision was for you to take care of vokills? Did you banish Behold the Pentagram away from the microphone stand?

Haunting the Beyond, Sacrifice the Virgin and Behold the Pentagram were all Rogga Johansson so technically he banished himself from the mic stand when he asked me to join as vocalist, haha. I was basically asked to join because WOODEN STAKE was doing very well and Rogga observed this and wanted to cash-in on that so to speak. He expressed wanting to work with me on something, so SKELETAL SPECTRE was it; the reasons being it was active, I was involved with the first album writing lyrics and coming up with the cover art concept, and it wasn’t yet another new thing to saturate the underground with. It was great fun while it lasted. Before this last album came out Rogga contacted me asking where I stood on the band and if I wanted to be part of it and I said yes. But then he wrote back and said the album was already done. It was weird and shady but whatever. Some people are just out for themselves. Just have to move on and I’m still proud of what I did with the band.

This is, if I am not mistaken, one of two doom/death oriented bands you have been in. What music style suits you more…do you prefer the slower, doom/death stuff, or the faster, death/thrash or black metal?

I love all styles because I can express myself differently in those styles and I can write different riffs or take different lyrical approaches. For example, songs I’m singing clean vocals on I use different words in my lyrics than when I’m doing guttural vomit vocals. I love it all and can’t pick between the styles honestly. Both forms of expression are great ways to purge.

Let’s stop for a while at your other project/band, named Loathsome. This is another musick outlet you have played in with Elektrokutioner (mentioned above) and musically it’s quite similar to your later creation, Howling (and I’ve reviewed this band’s only full-length for the Rubber Axe webzine some time ago). Did you plan your bands/projects to last only certain period of time, or, only till you express the intended idea behind it, and then let them disband? Or, noticing quite a lot of locations, are the past bands simply the inevitable output of moving from place to place?

It’s interesting you say LOATHSOME and HOWLING have a similar sound because there were two different songwriters for each band. Honestly I would still be doing every single band I’ve ever been involved in to this day if the members were all still interested and/or easy to work with. I don’t mean to sound acerbic but that was the problem with HOWLING unfortunately. When I originally set out to do all of my bands, of course my intent is for them to last for as long as they can. As for location having an impact on the work, that’s not a factor because my bandmates have all been from all around the world so I’ve always managed to make that work.

Now we’re getting to one of my favorites – Wooden Stake, especially as related to its latest opus from 2015 titled “A Feast of Virgin Souls”. I am sure I am not mistaken to consider this a kind of a concept album centered around the (in)famous countess Bathory of Csejthe. And I have to commend you for using a not so usual, but for me correct nevertheless, spelling of her name as Alzbeta (although you can’t be faulted with not using a special character of “ž”), as Csejthe, or, in Slovak language (my native one) Čachtice, is located in modern Slovakia.
For a doom/death album, this one sounds quite rock-ish and I would agree with King Diamond as the influence behind it (I’m not so sure about NWOBHM there, but I don’t claim to be an expert).
The question is, though, any plans for Wooden Stake to continue?

Haha! I had three names picked out for my Bathory-inspired lead character and I chose Alzbeta (spelling/grammar accuracy wasn’t important because I wasn’t going for accuracy; just creating my own world and story) because it was unique and I just wanted to sing that name over and over along with the Isabelle and Mircalla (Carmilla) characters. My story is definitely a far-fetched supernatural tale if Bathory met and battled with Carmilla and her lesbian vampire lover.

As for the musical change on this album versus the first was the obvious addition of Willie Wardlaw; his writing style is very MERCYFUL FATE/KING DIAMOND inspired as well as CANDLEMASS being a huge influence on this album. I wrote the intro to the album and the song “Hanging from the Inverted Cross”, but everything else is the work of W.W.

As for WOODEN STAKE coming back any time soon, the answer is yes. Well, I hope so. I’m determined no matter what to bring it back and I’m hoping Willie will still be onboard. I have more than an album’s worth of material written so I’m ready to go.

Sliding smoothly to your next band – and I have to admit I am not really that sure now if I am still going chronologically or not…but we’re gonna spend some moments discussing Orloff. What really bugs me is this question – can you tell us who were those other musicians playing with you in this band/project? I’d guess Waldemar de Marnac is quite a fan of Paul Naschy, isn’t he?

The other musicians names were Joel Bagley on guitars and bass, and from what I understand Richard Christy provided drum tracks. I can’t confirm that to be true, haha. Waldemar was Billy’s alias.

The year 2012 saw the birth of two of the bands you’re still active in (according to sources), Vaultwraith and Cauldron Burial. What is interesting to note is the lyrical shift towards the occult and Satanism, along with usual horror themes. Is that a somewhat logical development of your interests, or it’s just something you consider fitting for the kind of music you play with these bands?

Horror films, horror comics, exploitation, the occult, witchcraft, dark arts, folklore, Voodoo, Satanism, mythology, H.P. Lovecraft, Poe… these are all influences that I’ve had since I’ve started writing music and they will pretty much always be the impetus behind what I do.

I really like the songwriting in Vaultwraith, as it’s more melodic, yet still retaining your characteristic riffs. It really sounds more old school heavy metal than anything you’ve done before and this begs the question – what has happened? It’s a perfect modern take on old school metal, I’d say.

As I haven’t heard the 7” EP split with Nunslaughter (which followed your full-length “Dead is Proof of Satan’s Power”) yet, is there any change in this musical direction, or you will continue in it for your future releases?

I’m not in charge of writing the music in VAULTWRAITH; that’s the work of The Warlock (aka Willie Wardlaw).

Cauldron Burial is – without a doubt – a fitting tribute to 80s extreme metal done right, and unlike the more melodic Vaultwraith, this one sounds more omnious and ..well, extreme! I couldn’t but notice this one was not released through Razorback Records as the majority of your previous material, but it was put out first as an independent release (again, according to sources available online), and through Mexican label Ablaze Productions, only later through Razorback as a digital release. Is there any particular reason for not releasing it under the usual Razorback label?

I originally wanted to release “Orgia Nocturna” on my own label unnamed at the time (this was when I was considering doing Demonslave Recordings again) but…that didn’t happen. This is actually a personal subject for me as to why this happened I don’t really want to divulge. But, I will take this opportunity to say that I will be doing a CD repressing of “Orgia Nocturna” on my new label HexeCoven Records out sometime in May or June. I’m really excited for the album to be represented the way it was originally intended.

And last, but I am sure not least, band to mention here is mighty Surgikill!!! And what a band this one is! It’s so great to hear Stevo (Impetigo) on vokills again, just a few years ago after your collaboration on Twist Ending, and legendary Ash Thomas and Zdenka Prado are always welcome additions! “Sanguinary Revelations” actually boasts of 4 vokillists (Stevo, William Sievers, Billy Nocera and you). How did you get this band together? And considering the musical output so far, how do you view the future of this great band?

Billy was the one who gathered everyone for the line-up. I honestly don’t know what the future holds for SURGIKILL. Everyone has other bands and projects and some members tour, so it’s hard for all of us to get on the same page as far as working on anything new. I’m always ready and I’m sure other members would be ready to go but it’s just a matter of getting everyone in the zone and inspired to do the band.

Now, let’s talk also about your other passion, horror/cult/exploitation movies. How did you recall the start of your horror-enjoying journey? Any particular movie stuck firmly in your memory, and if so, for what reason?

I’ve loved horror movies since I was 2 years old, first seeing the movies I mentioned before. Ever since then I was always asking to watch scary movies trying to find one to actually scare me. When I was about 5 or 6 years old, my dad and his friend were up late watching The Gates of Hell. It had to have been the summertime or a weekend because I was up super late watching this bleak, eerie movie and it was embedding itself into my brain; it genuinely creeped me out. I remember sitting in the floor on one of those large floor pillows popular in the late ‘80s. I never knew the name of it until years later when I was about 14/15 years old bought it on a whim at a local record shop which also sold movies. It was cheap, the box art was AMAZING, and the title of the movie was all I needed. As I was watching it, the imagery and the music was all coming back to me and then the gut vomit scene happened and I was like FINALLY FOUND THIS FUCKING MOVIE!

You are also one of the contributors to great movie magazine Evilspeak, whose issue 6 I (and I am sure I am not alone here) eagerly await. How hard is to manage all those tasks, any special schedule you follow? For it’s definitely not easy to be able to function like that… do you ever sleep? 🙂

Not just a contributor, I co-created it and up until late last year I was co-owner. I’m unfortunately not part of it anymore, but I will be doing my own books/zines, one similar to Evilspeak I have in the works is NEKROMANTIKAL SCREAMS – basically reviews, personal stories, articles, editorials, etc. on films, music, books, and art.

As for my time management with this, it’s mostly easy because I’m always writing and always have ideas on things I want to say or write about, but deadlines are where the pressure is on. Soon I’m going to have to be stricter about my own deadlines for N.S. because I’m wanting this to get going. I want these “volumes” to come out twice a year if possible. Once I get a routine going then it will be smooth sailing.

And like a confirmation of the above, you have started your own, new label…can you introduce it to our readers and share some plans for the future? Any bands already in the works to be added to the roster?

Yes, HexeCoven Records is starting out with my own music; in particular the two CAULDRON BURIAL albums and I plan on a CD repressing of the debut WOODEN STAKE full-length album “Dungeon Prayers & Tombyard Serenades”. I have a split 7” planned with two Brazilian bands, Sepulchral Whore/Podridão, who play cob webbed thick muck death metal the old-school way. So look for more news on that release as well as hopefully more announcements as the label moves along.

That being said, I guess it’s time to leave you doing things you love to do and finish this nice interview. So, all done…any final message to the readers of the Rubber Axe webzine? Where can they follow your new stuff? Any FB, IG, Twitter etc. links we can direct our readers to?

I’m easy to find on Facebook under Vanessa Alucarda (Alucarda Bellows) and I’m mostly on Instagram these days because it’s more refined and easy to keep up with. Again, easy to find as Vanessa Alucarda or alucarda_bellows. No shitter account. Sorry.

Many thanks for your time and all the best in your future! \m/

Thanks, cheers, hails, piss, vinegar, shits, giggles, heavy metal vomit party…etc etc. *swords high*

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Rudolf Schütz

A father to two little perpetuum mobiles called kids, Rudolf is a main force behind The Rubber Axe webzine, a bookworm, musick lover and a movie fan - not to mention his virgin forays into the comics and board/card games.

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