Friday, 11 July 2014

INTERVIEW: Terminatryx

Terminatryx are an Alternative/Metal/Industrial-Rock band based in Cape Town. Formed in 2002, the band released their third full-length album in April 2014 which Femetalism were pleased to feature a few weeks back.

Paul and Sonja from Terminatryx were kind enough to speak to Femetalism in more detail about their music, their recent release, the alternative scene in their native South Africa and what they are planning for the future.

Terminatryx have had a long career, can you give us a quick rundown of the highlights?

Paul: After 12 years, it is difficult to be quick(!)

Sonja: We started with Terminatryx in 2002 when a friend and I decided that we wanted to have fun with a dual female-fronted Alternative band.

Paul: Before meeting Sonja around 2000, I was back in South Africa for a few years after my band V.O.D (Voice Of Destruction) recorded and toured in Europe.  Except for messing around with my solo project F8, I wasn’t doing much musically, so I wrote a song as a test drive for this proposed project (which we dubbed Terminatryx).  It came out pretty cool, so I wrote some more.

Sonja: Very early on my friend decided that she was not cut out for the music industry, so Paul and I decided to go it alone.  We felt that there was a gap in the South African market for our genre of music and Paul focused on material that we both felt presented an alternative to what the mainstream was doing.  Local promoters Alter Ego asked us to support German Darkwave pioneers Diary Of Dreams on their South African tour.

Paul: By this time we didn’t have any concrete live plans, just writing songs and recording demos at our own pace, but always conscious of how goddamn boring and mundane local Rock music has become, and not to fall in those same traps. So we recruited some extra members for these live shows - having the band make its live debut with an international act(!)

Sonja: The tour gave us much needed momentum and by that time we had enough songs to fill an album.

Paul: I was also asked to play with another project (K.O.B.U.S.),  so Terminatryx didn’t get as much attention as I’d have liked.  In 2005 we created the HorrorFest film festival and Halloween event.

Sonja: Due to Paul playing other shows, in 2006 we only played a couple of Terminatryx dates, but did travel to Europe for an appearance at Popkomm in Berlin.  In 2007 the band decided that it was “make or break” time and took the plunge with recording the album. 2006 we also created our Makabra Ensemble live movie soundtrack project - writing and performing new music to classic silent films. Done 8 of them so far.

Paul: I wanted the debut album to be as good as it can be (with our time and budget constraints), so I quit K.O.B.U.S. to focus on finishing the recording.

Sonja: The self-titled album was released in 2008 with much critical acclaim.

Paul: We also released our DVD featuring a short film we made,  “imPERFECTION”, and the classic silent vampire film Nosferatu with our new Makabra Ensemble soundtrack. We also shot a few music videos incl. one for the song "Virus" (which screened at various international film festivals, winning some awards like Best Music Clip at Barossa in Australia). We also performed with touring international acts Sigue Sigue Sputnik, Sheep On Drugs and VNV Nation.

Sonja: This debut CD was followed up by “Remyx v1.0”, a full remixed version of the entire body of work by international collaborators such as Martin Degville from the above-mentioned Sigue Sigue Sputnik fame, Sheep On Drugs, Industriezone, Moderne-e-Quartet and The Awakening.

Paul: Local remixers included Battery 9, Mr Sakitumi, Nul, and some bonus tracks like our cover version of the ‘80s classic "Obsession" (for which we also made a music video), and a track from one of our Makabra Ensemble tracks for the movie “Maciste In Hell”.

Sonja: That was  released in 2011.  After that we made plans to  start working on new material and by 2012 we were looking at producing the new album.  We wanted this one to be a departure from our previous releases (but retain our character) and focused on getting the best production we could afford. We contacted Theo Crous (Springbok Nude Girls, K.O.B.U.S.) who collaborated with us on the production of the song “Shadow” (which also became the album’s title).

Paul: With Theo and I co-producing and having access to his very well set up studio (including analog facilities), we could bring together our best aspects for a production with both impact and emotion.

Sonja: It resulted in an album that we are truly proud of.

Can you tell us a little about each member of the band?

Paul is the driving force behind Terminatryx, being the principal composer and organiser.  He come from a lineage of SA Metal veterans and was the drummer for V.O.D (Voice of Destruction which formed in the mid-1980s).  He also played drums for the aforementioned band K.O.B.U.S. (winners of a South African Music Award).  He started playing around with bass guitar in the late-‘90s and moved on to guitar a few years into Terminatryx (as well as programming, synths etc.). With many years’ experience in the industry and having toured Europe with V.O.D, Paul is the brain behind the Terminatryx machine in every aspect from producing and song writing to music videos and marketing.

Sonja is the face and lead vocalist of the band and has contributed to the writing of many tracks on the new album “Shadow”.  She has her own vocal style and doesn’t try to emulate anyone.  She doesn’t do the Death growls (that’s Paul’s department), and also doesn't do the angelic operatic thing, but rather projects her persona into the songs and fulfill the need of each track with conviction.  She is also a member of the Makabra Ensemble with Paul (and collaborators), and recently started a Dark Folk / Experimental project called “A Murder”.

Ronnie Belcher has been involved in Termintrayx since its inception and also has his Rockabilly project “The Flaming De Villes”.

Patrick Davidson joined Terminatryx in 2008 and is guitarist for one of SA's top Metal bands “Mind Assault”.

Where did the name Terminatryx come from?

Paul: We wanted something thought-provoking that sounded cool and didn’t exist before. With the band’s Industrial elements, we took the dominatrix idea and combined it with Sci-Fi movies like the Terminator, Tetsuo, The Matrix and the Nexus replicants from Bladerunner.  This mash-up became Terminatrix – but a few years into it a whole bunch of Terminatrix entities came to the fore (from a fetish club, a manga movie, and DJs, to the Terminator 3 female robot’s reference.  So, in stead of changing the name, we just changed the spelling to Terminatryx.

Can you describe the Terminatryx sound?

Sonja: The Terminatryx sound is difficult to pinpoint, we have not gone for a particular sound and have tried to remain original.  We do what comes naturally to us and in accordance with our abilities. We have no pressure to fit into a particular genre.  We have always taken influence from cinematic soundscapes and this is particularly evident in our instrumental tracks. We are alternative people and love alternative music, but all of us have a very wide taste in music that encompasses everything from classical music to Grindcore!

Paul: To label something as “Alternative” has become such a vast term.  I’d say we’re a combination of everything from various Metal derivatives and Industrial, to Gothic.  Each song can vary to the other with some featuring movie soundtrack moods as Sonja mentioned, but can also take Hard Rock or even Punk flavoured detours.  People who like these mentioned genres can all find something in our music that can resonate with them.  Different people hear different things in it, and with the diversity of the songs, in reviews we've often also been compared to bands (and genres) we actually never heard of(!)

You recently released the incredible album Shadow. Can you tell us about the album?

Sonja: With “Shadow” I contributed to writing the title track, “Holy”, “Nothing”, “Gone” and “Medusa”, this has created a new dynamic as it has forced Paul out of his comfort zone in terms of building the song structure from scratch, to having the vocal melody as basis from which to create the music retroactively (reverse to how he normally does it). Lyrics range from emotional and personal relationship reflections, and a look at physical and mental scars, to man's capacity for both good & evil, our dependence on technology and how it may destroy us, our conscience, and the mythical character of Medusa. As an overall theme it looks at how we as human beings have the capacity to do so much, but can so easily screw things up for ourselves and those around us. Without lyrics, the instrumental songs can also conjure up an entire narrative.

Paul: Sonja is a Goth at heart, so she’s also added a more emotional and gloomy edge to the album (which is not a bad thing!), where I wrote most of the first album's material.  It's great to add an extra perspective and dimension.  I have Metal roots, but like to experiment and not be rigid in sticking to a singular style.  We also have different writing styles, but I think the combination of Sonja’s lyrics and its melodies with my music gels well.  My lyrics are often more confrontational in nature.

We recorded most of the guitars and bass guitar at our Flamedrop facilities, and took off down the Cape West Coast early 2013 to record most of Sonja's vocals at a holiday home in a quiet beach town.   Everything was taken to Theo's Bellville Studios (where we also recorded the live drums on analog tape, adding it to the programmed beats we created).  We put everything together there, mixed and added more bits & pieces from orchestration, to extra guitar recording and special guests (like the track "Outcast" featuring Heike Langhans from Draconian and Matthijs Van Dijk who is part of our Makabra Ensemble on violin and orchestration / my brother Francois also of V.O.D and K.O.B.U.S. on gang vocals with me and Francois Van Coke of Fokofpolisiekar and Van Coke Kartel on the song "Holy" - Diccon Harper played bass on the song - he's also in V.O.D and played on the first Dragonforce album as well as with Pagan Altar / Craig Vee played lead guitar on "Medusa") .  It was a long, hard road, but well worth it.  It's certainly not what people expect South African music to sound like.

Sonja: We wanted to portray a strong female figure on the album cover, almost like a mythical character. We considered Medusa, but chose to create our own.

Paul: Naturally Sonja would portray this character on the cover (as she's appeared on both the debut and its remixed version's covers), and with our collaborative photographer and friend Dr-Benway, the character came to life.  We painted white texture on Sonja, she styled herself, and Dr-Benway photographed her - from there he entered his dungeon to get it just right in post-production.

Sonja: We wanted the imagery to be dark yet sensual, mysterious and not overtly sexual.

You also released a fantastic video for the title track. Can you tell us about the process?

Paul: We produce all our own music videos, and I directed all of our previous ones.  Sonja had a specific idea, so I suggested she handle the direction this time as well (with me co-directing).

Sonja: I wanted to portray a séance in a video for a very long time, but we never had a song where it would fit.  “Shadow” lent itself to this scenario very well.  We wanted to keep the look clean and simple, with a timeless retro feel.  What you get is the glimpse of an incident at a séance - We don’t know the characters and we observe the event as it takes place, simple, stylish and eerily stunning, with a chilling conclusion.

Paul: We love making movies and combining it with our music is a perfect match. We don’t get a fortune thrown at us by a record company to make a killer video – we have to do it ourselves and rely on being creative with our execution.  The ectoplasm VFX was going to be very costly, but just like our previous productions, we’re privileged to have friends and connections who assist us to create something memorable, professional and of international standard.  Jean-Pierre Allers, a friend of our cinematographer Leon Visser took care of the ectoplasm FX.

Sonja: He was involved in a car accident while working on it, so it took a bit longer than anticipated. We wanted the look to be a departure from our previous videos and, whilst in keeping with the “supernatural” theme of our videos, we opted for black and white, going full circle back to our very first clip for “Midnight”, which is also black & white with a very basic but effective premise.

Paul: We got a great Sony camera from Media Film Service in Cape Town that shoots high speed 4K, and one Saturday late March we blacked out a storage area at Cosmesis Advanced Prosthetic Studios, set up the circular dolly tracks and lighting, and hammered it out (but with a whole lot of pre-production and hard labour to make it happen).  Leon also edited and graded the final cut. The response has been very positive.

What do you enjoy most about playing live and which Terminatryx song do you most enjoy playing live?

Sonja: A live performance for us is always a stressful endeavour, we have so many technical aspects that can go wrong and you have to be prepared for anything.  Most of the band members have their individual favourites, but the group all love performing “Up To You” (from the debut album) as this song is lively, has a great message and is also a crowd pleaser and easy to enjoy.
One of my personal favourites to perform live is one of the bonus tracks from our  "Remyx v1.0" album called “Maciste Decends”.

Paul: We enjoy being able to interact with an audience and see them experience the music, often for the first time without having heard our recordings.  We want to get the live sound as close to the album as possible, so as Sonja mentioned, it can be stressful when it comes to ensuring everything's just right, and Ronnie has to play his live drums on top of the track containing loops, samples, sound FX, synths etc. Picking a favourite is always a difficult one for me.  I like them all equally, but “Shadow” is cool because it plays easily and is an effective, hypnotic song.  We always start our live sets with an instrumental (either “Metropolis” or “Venus Rising”) – I like playing those because it builds up the anticipation for the show to follow.

Can you tell us about the alternative scene in South Africa? Are there any other South African bands we should look out for?

Paul: The South African Alternative scene is sadly not as big as we’d like it to be, and pales in comparison to other parts of the world – it is unfortunately also the nature of our geography.  Of the Alternative genres, Metal seems the most active.  The Punk scene is waning, I can’t think of a single Gothic band, and Industrial bands are virtually non-existent. Rockabilly seems to be having an upswing. So, by default we need to link with Metal bands and shows – while this is no problem for us, we would like to diversify and play with bands of other Alternative styles. The thing is, the local audience is there for Alternative music, they just choose not to be as active in supporting local acts as international ones - when a band like Rammstein or Lamb Of God tours SA, you can get over 5000 people to come out of the woodwork and pay 10 to 30 times the amount for one band compared to a show with up to 5 local ones - and you won’t see 90% of them at these local shows…  While unfortunate, that's their choice and you can't hold it against them - freedom of choice and all(!)

Sonja: At the moment the Alternative scene is in a bit of a lull and sometimes it feels like it could be a dying breed.  It needs new life and innovation, something that people love to support. Whilst our SA Metal scene is flourishing, we cannot say the same about Goth and Punk.  A new band that has been showing promise is Subvers from Cape Town.

Paul: Some stalwarts like Agro and Sacrifist are still flying the flag after decades, and guys who have been at it for years have kicked in with new bands like The Drift and Boargazm.  On a female-fronted Black Metal side Theatre Runs Red is pretty cool.  There are loads of Metalcore and Deathcore bands, and sometimes it becomes a bit of a blur...  There’s Power Metal like Strident, and Thrash revivalists like Infanteria, and extreme metal like Zombies Ate My Girlfriend.  There are actually loads of bands, but these are just a few that come to mind.  There are several Death bands, but hardly any Doom.  The thing is, so many come and go (not sticking it out like we have for 12 years!) - I think they get fed up with local apathy and lose enthusiasm.

You recently featured in a number of major South African publications such as De Kat and Playboy magazines. Can you tell us more about these?

Sonja: We pride ourselves on always producing the best photography and videos that we can, and we have been lucky that our work has caught the eye of some prominent publications.  We work hard for every piece of publicity we receive and never rest on our laurels. It takes push and networking 24/7 to be noticed.

Paul: Sonja wanted to do an experimental photo shoot that would be “out of the ordinary” for Terminatyx, and along with Dr-Benway and I, conceptualized a shoot that was inspired by the works of painters from the Golden age, like Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer.

Sonja: The result was beautifully rich, and the use of colour and light demanded that these pictures be utilized in print form.  We decided that we would send them to De Kat as the publication is renowned for its style, artistic approach and for its beautiful design.  We were incredibly pleased when the magazine decided to feature three of these images in an article about Terminatryx (as it is hardly their usual type of content).

Paul: Playboy reviewed our previous albums and decided to use Terminatryx as the focal point in an article on the Alternative music scene in SA.  This resulted in another creative exercise with Dr-Benway with a special photo-shoot of Sonja.

We also made the cover of Kultür Magazine twice, once in 2012, and April of 2014 featuring Sonja (from the “Shadow” album artwork), and recently also had the image as the cover feature on the entertainment segment of the Sunday Independent newspaper.

All press links & reviews are here.

What comes next for Terminatryx?

Sonja: We will do all that we can to play, perform and promote the “Shadow” album across the year and will also be producing more music videos.  Longer term, we would like to focus our efforts towards other markets beyond South Africa.  We have received encouragement from many other places in the world and would like to focus our attention in those areas where we are finding receptive prospects.

Paul: Yeah, besides aiming to produce as many super-cool music videos as we can for “Shadow”, and promoting the album that way to an international market, we’ve been confirmed to close the prestigious Metal4Africa Winterfest event on 2 August, and will also play Witchfest alongside Belphegor, Septic Flesh, Alestorm, Fleshgod Apocalypse, V.O.D and loads of other bands (early-April 2015) - it is set to be the biggest Metal event in the country.

TERMINATRYX "Shadow" is available on CD as well as reputed on-line locations including Bandcamp, iTunes, CD Baby, Amazon mp3, & others

Femetalism would like to thank Sonja and Paul for taking the time to talk to Femetalism! Shadow is an awesome album and we look forward to hearing and seeing more from you!

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Originally posted by Emma Sheridan on Femetalism.