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Tapping The Vein    
Tapping The Vein
Female-fronted bands are on the rise within the hard rock / heavy metal circuit. They are adding a fresh new beauty to a male dominated genre. Philadelphia's Tapping The Vein are one such act who are just getting on their feet with their Nuclear Blast debut 'The Damage'. Metal Update had the chance to chat with the band before a gig on their recent tour with King's X. The members of Tapping The Vein were more than happy to discuss musical tastes, touring and the use of technology in their unique goth / industrial / rock sound.

METAL UPDATE: Heather, who are some of your vocal influences?

HEATHER THOMPSON: That is a question that I have trouble answering because I don't really have people that I studied. I couldn't sit here and say I used to listen to this person all of the time or that person all of the time. I just obsess on a band or a singer that has some sad songs at the moment - Just listen to them and get all sad. That's a stupid answer, but I really don't have a good answer to that question.

MU: That's fine because it shows that you're original in your own sense, which you can tell. You're not really copying anyone. People compare you to other people, but there always has to be comparisons. Whenever people review things they have to compare it to something so people have a clue as to what you sound like.

HT: Right. Well, we're lucky because that seems to be a common statement that they can't easily categorize us. Second, that works to our advantage because people might be a little curious.

MU: Have you undergone any vocal training?

HT: I took lessons to learn some warm up exercises, but that was years and years after I had already been in bands. I was in - I guess it was my last band - and I was having this psychological problem where I would get to one point in one of the songs and I would be like, "I can't do it! I can't do it!" So I went to this vocal coach and she showed me exercises and they are exercises that take you really high and it just got me to overcome my fear of possibly cracking. If I can do it beforehand in a warmup, then I overcome that psychological block.

MU: You're comparisons, what I have seen so far, have been Bjork, Cocteau Twins, Portishead, Garbage, Sneaker Pimps which are probably aiming mainly at your vocals. Do you guys think those are accurate comparisons, you especially, vocal-wise?

HT: They are all compliments. Let's start out by saying that, musically, I've always thought we sounded more like Stabbing Westward. They have the emotional quiet kind of verses, melodic verses and then they explode into these emotional choruses. So, I've always compared us more to them than any female fronted band.

MU: Besides the fact that you have a very talented voice, do you think the band gets any extra attention due to the fact that you are a female fronting the band? There are not a whole lot of rock bands doing that right now, although the numbers are increasing.

Tapping The Vein

HT: I think a couple of years ago, it probably was a disadvantage. I had a record company tell me that there is no market for female voices. But I think now the market is completely saturated with male singers and a lot of them sound very similar. I think it works to our advantage now because people will see a female out there and they'll be, "Oh, what's this?" And then they'll go out there, they'll listen and they realize that the band is good and that we have OK songs or whatever and start to pay attention. As we get heavier, and the show progresses they start to show us a little respect and we always get a good response. I don't mean to be a snob about it. We are just lucky that people respond the way that they do. Not everybody likes it, but most people do.

MU: When you play alongside other female vocalists, or just other female musicians in general, do think they are supportive or is it more of a competition sort of thing? You mentioned that they only wanted one female fronted band on some fest that you were going to do.

ERIC FISHER: There is a promoter actually doing some work over in Europe, trying to look for festivals or tours for us that we can be on. He mentioned that they usually don't like putting two female-fronted acts on the same bill. I think he meant in general. Maybe tours more than festivals, I'm not sure. That was a European thing.

HT: Over here in our hometown situation, we have a lot of bands that we play with. There's a band out of New York called Otto's Daughter. There's a band from Philadelphia called Torsion. And these are all female-fronted groups and they are all excellent. To my face there has never been any competition. One of the girls, we're best friends. But then playing out of town there have been some openers and they didn't even say hi. I don't know how they feel about it, but I don't feel competition because that is not what it's about. It's just about: You have your band. I'll have my band. You do your thing. I'll do my thing. Its not like I can sing higher or I can play and sing.

MU: I see Tapping The Vein falling between the goth and metal worlds almost perfectly. There are probably other elements as well, but those are probably the main markets that I see going for you. Would you guys agree on this?

JOE ROLLAND: I could agree that we blend the sound with both genres. But we don't aim our songs in any direction. We hope it gets to everybody. It's not like we are trying to exclude anybody. We have people from housewives to metal maniacs to people that are into whatever. People come up to us and say that they are into our music for whatever reason. There are no rules in the music itself, so we like to branch out a little bit. With this tour, it's a rock band. Last tour was more of an industrial gothic thing. It has been working out good for us - thank god.

MU: So it is an advantage then and you feel comfortable in any given scene?

JR: We talk to the people and hear what they think and see where they're coming from. Some people might just like Barry Manilow and come up and say, "I really like you guys."

MU: What sorts of bands were you in prior to Tapping The Vein?

MARK BURKERT: I was involved in so many different styles of music prior to this. I was a metalhead for a long time. I've always liked hard rock music. I've always liked guitar music. I am a guitar junkie. I am really happy to be on this tour because I'm a big fan of King's X and progressive music, that sort of thing. I've been in hard rock bands, metal bands, cover top 40 bands and bands that are acoustic or whatever. But my heart has always been into a heavier kind of music. When I met Tapping The Vein, it seemed like it could be a good working relationship. I jumped at the chance because it seemed like very interesting music - something that I could contribute to and grow with.

JR: I was in a lot of bands previous to this. I was actually in an all girls hard rock band.

HT: Were you a girl at one time?

JR: No. They were looking for a bass player and couldn't find one and I was like, "Alright I'll fill in." Then I got kicked out about a month later so. . . But previous to this I was in a band called Gravedance. It was a gothic band out of Philadelphia, then Tapping the Vein asked me to fill in and here I am. Thank god. Probably the best move I've ever made. That is where I wanted to go with my direction of playing.

MU: What do you collectively listen to?

HT: A couple of artists we all agree on is Curve, The Cure, this band called Ours. I don't know if you've heard of them.

MU: Yes, I have some of their stuff.

HT: What else do we agree on? Rammstein, Powerman 5000, Nine Inch Nails, Massive Attack, Linkin Park.

EF: It seems as time goes on, we kind of pick up on stuff that we all agree on. HT: But it's rare that we all agree. Black Sabbath is another.

MU: Not to be redundant, but I just want an example of your personal tastes so could each of you name one artist that you are real psyched about at this time.

HT: I'm real psyched about Coldplay.

MB: I've been listening to a lot of different stuff. Guitar stuff. Somebody from the 80's, this guy Paul Gilbert from Racer X. He has a new album out. I really like it a lot. Like I said, I'm a guitar junkie. Also this producer, BT. I'm starting to use a lot of software and Eric has been turning me on to that. Went to an article about this guy BT and figured I'd check out some of his stuff. So I've been listening to that a lot as well.

HT: Eric, one artist.

EF: One?

HT: Yup.

EF: One artist is tough because I listen to so many things. I can pick anything. I guess recently it would have to be. . . geez can I pick 2? I don't know. Probably the new Arch Enemy or Emperor if I want to go metal. Nine Inch Nails is something that will always be there.

JR: I've been really digging the new Cranes CD. Outside of that I just started listening to a lot more Poe because we just got the CD. I really like them. We might have some similar influences. I just listened to the CD and it's got some electronics - some nice vibes going on there - a female singer as well. I happen to favor a lot of female singers. The Cocteau Twins is really good too.

MU: Quick question for you, Heather, have you ever heard of Rose Chronicles? Kirsty Thirsk?

HT: Oh. We played with her in Philadelphia. There was a Philadelphia Music Conference show. She's up in Canada, right? She's got an amazing voice. She's really cool.

Tapping The Vein

EF: She's a really nice person too.

MU: How does the songwriting work within the band?

MB: We don't have any set formula. We have a bunch of different things that seem to work. One thing that works real well is that Heather may already have some lyrics, a melody line and something somewhat sketched out on the piano, or have something finished and then she'll bring it in and we'll try to work things out. We work things out that way. There have been a couple of times that I've actually liked the piano parts so I copied it. She didn't want us to, so we ended up having to change everything. Everything ends up getting changed.

HT: Darker, darker, darker!!!

MB: I came in one day and was like (sounds of wailing noisily on guitar) and it's like, "Yeah, that's it!" and that was "Sugarfall". And then there are other times where I might go over to Eric's house and say, "Play me some loops. Give me something. I'm inspired tonight. Here's a couple of notes. What do you think of this? Yeah that's cool." Joe starts playing and next thing you know it forms that way.

HT: That turned into "Fingertips".

MB: And then "The Ledge" is something while I was watching Seinfeld, playing with sound for a program and I'm putting something together and I'm playing a part while watching TV and I came up with this idea. We pretty much knew that was the basis for "The Ledge". Basically, any one person can bring in an idea and when we all start working on it, it becomes Tapping The Vein. If I had to sum it up, that how I would say it.

MU: Eric, who does the programming for the most part. Do you do most of it?

EF: For the most part until now. Recently, Mark has been messing around with some software programs like Acid and it really helps the writing process because then I can kind of get an idea of where he is coming from. Not just from a guitar standpoint, so it's been really helping us move along. I think Mark will probably be doing a lot of it as we write the next album.

MU: How do you handle that live as far as the drum machine and everything? Do you sequence the guitars to match as far as guitar effects or is that all live?

EF: It's all pretty much live. All the changes Mark makes on his own - changing patches and effects and things like that. And the reason being is that I can only use a mini disc live. It's a lot easier for me to just mix everything ahead of time, put it on the mini disc and just play that live. I just play to that. Since I'm playing live drums it's hard for me to bring all this other equipment and use the computer and stuff so that's all we do live is just run the mini disc. That's it.

MU: Do you keep your drumbeats fairly simple and basically allow the drum machine to take care of the other elements. It's not like you're a shitty drummer or anything. You are doing it purposely to let the other elements take control, right?

EF: That's a really good question. Nobody has asked me that. I do pay attention to it because the whole reason I'm using the loop is to get some sort of vibe and a lot of times the elements in the loop are what's giving it that vibe. So I'll simplify the drumbeat so that I'm just playing the main part, especially live it's easier to hear what's going on so that the other elements in the loop will come through it. So I do exactly that. That's a good question. Nobody has asked me that before.

MU: I asked Eric if the guitars were sequenced to match the drum machine to have the effects actually turn on right when a certain part comes. I heard of people contemplating on doing that. It sounds crazy. I did not know if you did that. I thought it would be crazy.

MB: It's all live. I switch all the sounds and try to get it right on the money every time so I do a dance up there a little bit. It's kinda hard but it's all live. It's not sequenced at all.

MU: How did the deal with Nuclear Blast come about?

EF: I was basically sending out all the press kits. It was my job to send all the press kits out and I sent 'em to just about everybody. I guess I've always been a fan of the bands on Nuclear Blast and it was just one of those things where if I was sending them out I was going to send them to everybody, no matter what their roster was like or whether I thought they would like us or not. It was just one of the hundred packages that went out and I made sure I addressed it to name specific on the envelope - I found a contact. I think what happened was that I hit the right person and it happened to be a guy that worked at the label who was also in a goth band, so it really helped that I hit the right person. I guess when he got the package, he played it for the owner of the label, Marcus, and he really liked it. He emailed us, asked what we were doing and if we were interested in a deal. It kinda just went from there.

MU: Is the whole thing with Nuclear Blast working out right now?

EF: Yeah, it seems to be. They definitely give you a lot of leeway as far as the artwork goes, the songs that are included and things like that. They liked the band so they just kinda let us go. Working with them to complete the album and get it out was really kinda simple.

HT: And they are letting us come over to Germany for a week.

MU: Are you actually on a subsidiary label called Rebelution?

HT: That's the way they set it up. Rebelution is part of Nuclear Blast, but everybody just says Nuclear Blast. They just completely ignore it. Everybody from the band to record stores to press people. They are just fascinated that we are somehow connected with Nuclear Blast. It's cool.

MU: How was the last tour with the Electric Hellfire Club different than this tour with King's X - it's completely different styles as far as headliners go.

HT: The one way I would describe the Electric Hellfire tour is two words: fun, but volatile. Every night was a different situation because Thomas is unpredictable - the head of the Electric Hellfire Club. We didn't know if they would play 10 minutes or one hour - or if the equipment wasn't working properly the show would stop. We had a ton of fun and they were great. Seraphim Shock was great and we just had a great time, but it was definitely a volatile situation. This tour is on a different. . . these are musicians' musicians. We have to work a lot harder to earn the respect of the audience. We have to be totally pro and just earn what we get respect-wise every night.

MB: Our first gig, we were playing in North Carolina. I am getting ready to turn my amp on and I notice there are all these musicians and guitar players standing around my rig, pointing to my gear, looking at everything. And I'm thinking these people are going to rip me to shreds. They are not going to get what we are doing because I don't do a lot of leads. And then after we were done the set, they had really enjoyed it a lot and they liked it and I said, "Geez, I guess we can really cross over. Not just to a rock audience, but to a musician's audience as well." So that was really a point where we really crossed over. We can take care of the goth people, the industrial people, the people that are there to just rock out or the people that are there to really pick apart what you do. That was such a great feeling. It was a little nerve racking but after the first couple of shows it was great.

MU: This is especially a hard tour for you guys because I'm sure that you all know that King's X fans are hardcore dedicated.

MB: They were very accepting. Very very accepting. As long as they could see that somebody is writing a good song and they handle all their music well, they are pretty happy with that.

EF: It's definitely not as bad as opening for Slayer. They are hardcore, but at the same time it's sort of like the fans that you really want to play for, like the underground metal fans, the underground progressive fans. They don't care what's on the radio. If they really like you, they are going to like you forever. They are really loyal to the label and to the fans and stuff like that.

HT: The King's X fans just really appreciate good music. King's X themselves, they make it a point to let us know that they love it when their opening bands do well. Like when their fans accept the opening bands, they couldn't be happier. They're like, "We love to give our fans a good show from start to finish. Whoever we bring with us, we want to make it worth it." They are going to be as pleasing to the audience as they can be. We love it that their fans have seemed to like us. And King's X stand out there and watch us play.

MU: Have there been any crazy incidents along the way so far? Anything that stands out as being out of control?

HT: Not this tour.

MU: Well last tour anyway. I expect that.

HT: The Electric Hellfire Club was just totally teasing us every night because compared to them we are absolute nerds. They are up all night and their rider has five full bottles of alcohol chilling in the cooler and we're lucky if we get pizza. You put a bunch of alcohol in a situation and it's like the headliners have until 12 o' clock to drink it all. It gets pretty crazy.

JR: It's a big surprise from the last show with predictability of the other bands. As Heather was saying about The Electric Hellfire Club, there is a lot of things happening every night whether it was just bad or funny in general. It was just entertaining. The whole tour was just great. I loved it. And they are really nice guys. This tour, like I said, is much different where it's like these guys have been around for 15 plus years or so and the biggest thing so far is that we can't get over how nice the band is. They are the nicest people. They talk to us like we're brothers or something and it's amazing.

HT: We were totally surprised by how cool King's X is. They had every right to be completely evasive, to be completely shut off from the opening bands. They have every right to just get off the bus, walk on stage and ignore everybody if they want to. But not only are they cool to us, they are absolutely amazingly cool with their fans. They come out. They stand there. They hang out. They sign autographs. Now that they've been in the club for 12 or 13 hours and they still stand there and play for 2 1/2 hours and then hang out with their fans until every single person leaves the bar.

MU: You guys will be playing in Europe soon opening up for the Cure. What are your thoughts on that?

HT: I just want to clarify that we are not actually opening for them. We are like four bands before them. So, we are not the actual openers, but we are lucky enough to be on the same stage on the same day.

JR: I am completely excited because the Cure is my favorite band and just to be on the same stage and the same country at the same time would get me excited, but the fact that I am playing alongside of them at the same festival just freaks me out. I really would like to meet them just to say hi and stuff like that.

MU: If you could open up or tour with anybody, who would it be?

EF: Nine Inch Nails hands down I think.

MB: King's X.

JR: Seeing as we're already opening up for the Cure, that would be my number one, but second would be Curve.

HT: I think I would like to tour with. . . I'll pick Linkin Park. I think their fans might like us. And I love their songs. I'd be out there every night.

MU: What are some future plans for the band?

MB: To earn money at music. We all quit our jobs to do these tours. We just hope we can make ends meet and maybe a little bit more if possible someday. We are just having so much fun that I don't think any of us are thinking about the money right now.

JR: I think my biggest thing for us in the future would be seeing that this is our second tour in America, to get out in Europe which we are. I think more extensive touring would be really well received as far as the Europeans go.

HT: The only thing that I want to do is to just stay out. Just stay out and continue to play and sell records and turn them in every week to Soundscan and hope that somebody notices so that we can continue to stay out.

MU: I think you guys have the ability to be mainstream or make it fairly big, so hopefully that will happen. I'm sure that's what you all want, right?

HT: Even if that doesn't happen, which chances are it won't. The manager that we have has made a career of making a career from his bands. Not huge millionaires but some of them tour for six months and they are off for six months. Some of them tour for two and they're off for two weeks then they tour for two. But they make a living doing what they are trying to do. Eric and my boyfriend are going to be my two roommates and as long as we can come with 200 or 300 dollars, we can do whatever we want to do. Once you get home there is not much money left.

MU: It goes fast. You basically have to work shitty jobs when you are back until you get big enough. But not many bands can do that.

HT: We depend highly on the kindness of strangers like Mike here. He let us stay at his house for two or three days and that is going to save us 200 dollars.

JR: It's people that we trust and that trust us. It's not like we would just stay at anyone's flat or anything.

MU: It gets sketchy sometimes but you gotta do what you gotta do.

JR: Let's hope it doesn't come to that.


*BUY* Tapping The Vein 'The Damage'






Interview: Scott McCooe [ ]
Live Photo: Joseph A Staskowski [ ]
MU Editor: Brant Wintersteen [ ]
MU Webmaster: WAR [ ]

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