Friday, 3 October 2014

INTERVIEW: Gemma Fox of Collibus

Bloodstock - Sabrina Ramdoyal Photography

It's been a hectic year for Collibus; not only have they released their debut album, The False Awakening, they've also been touring it at festivals all over the place. We are very excited to have been able to talk to Gemma Fox, Collibus's lead singer, about her involvement with the band, about her own band DamageScape, and what it's like being in the musical spotlight.

Can you introduce us to Collibus?

The band had formed way back in the day as a college project, long before I knew the guys. I joined in 2009 after relocating from Scotland to Manchester. I was only down for a visit, came across their add while I was here, and the rest is history!

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

Ste is the brains, so to speak. It's very much his baby, majority of the music being his. RJ, sadly for him, is the member we pick on most! (every band has that guy!) And Dan is our food lover and must be fed frequently. Usually bacon will suffice!

Where did the name Collibus come from?

You'd have to ask the guys! I'm not even sure they know to be honest... I guess it sounded good at the time?

How would you describe your sound? Do you have any major influences or styles?

Primarily metal, with a bit of a proggy tinge here and there. It's very much about the riffs and melody. Collectively, we're all big fans of Nevermore, Dream Theater, Opeth, Devin Townsend, among many others!

Collibus released the album The False Awakening earlier this year.  Can you tell us about the album? 

As I mentioned earlier, the majority of the music is Ste's. RJ has wrote the occasional section here and there, and sometimes lyrics (Thoughts In Vain, LifeBlood). Rest of the lyrics on the album are mine, usually drawn from personal experiences I'm going through at the time. There is no theme as such, but a lot of the songs are about breaking free from something/someone that is holding you back. The album artwork was designed by Rob Borbas of Grindesign and inspired from the title track The False Awakening. He sent us a draft, and we just loved it! It just seemed to fit, and looks damn awesome on a t-shirt!

How did it feel when Collibus won the Mike Weatherley MP Discretionary Rock/Metal Award 2013? Was it strange to play The House of Commons?

The whole experience was surreal from start to finish! From receiving the initial e-mail from Mike saying he'd chosen us, to being told Andy Copping wanted us for Download Festival, to eventually being asked to perform at the House of Commons with Dr Brian May in the audience! It's been an epic journey.

Collibus have played a number of major festivals this year - Download Festival, Sonisphere Festival, Graspop Metal Meeting, Wacken Open Air and Bloodstock Open Air. What have been your highlights?

Each festival has had it's own highlight for different reasons. Impossible to pick a favourite! But I guess Download was the scariest, being the first proper big show for us, and also it had always been a dream of mine to play. Sonisphere was also rather special for me personally, as I was able to give my dad a weekend guest pass and hang out with him. Meant a lot to me to be able to do that!

Is it difficult splitting your time between Collibus and DamageScape? How has Collibus’s continued success affected your schedule?

When things started to take off with Collibus, it was then a case of prioritising. DamageScape is very important to me as it's my music, but I decided it was more important to focus on Collibus and set it aside for a while. I'll get back to it soon though! There is new DamageScape material in the pipeline and I'm looking forward to working on it.

DamageScape released an EP in 2012, Was It All Worth While.  Can you tell us about the EP and any future plans? Is there a full-length album on the horizon?

Including those 4 tracks, there is an albums worth of material. We just need to find time to get together on work on it! After all, it's not just Ste and I that are busy with other projects... Sarit our bassist also plays for 2 other bands, David R Black and Erica Nockalls, so I think the time out from DamageScape has ultimately done us all good, and will be that much sweeter when we all get together again to work on the album.

How old were you when you starting playing music and how did you know this was the career for you?

I guess I always enjoyed singing, but I was always far too shy so nobody knew I had a voice! So I took up keyboard and eventually guitar when I was a teenager, and singing was just always something I kept a secret... It was when I was 16 I finally plucked up the courage to actually sing in front of someone for the first time, which happened to be my high school music teacher, and after hearing me (nervously) sing only a few bars of a song, he stopped me and said he was adding me as headliner for the Xmas show. I guess from then on, I realised that I didn't need to be so nervous anymore, then there was no looking back for me.

Rock the House - Dave Hill Photography What motivates you to create your music?

Life! Everybody has that something in their life that sets them free from the day to day boring things we have to do to get by. For me, it's music, and I think I would go insane without it!

Which artists have inspired or influenced you as a performer?

Freddie Mercury, hands down. The mans talent and passion is untouchable! And this year I finally got to see Devin Townsend live. He's a mad genius! I absolutely love his 'don't give a shit, say what I want' attitude on stage.

What do you enjoy most about playing live and which songs do you most enjoy playing?

When you're in that zone, and it's going great, and the audience are lapping it up... THAT feeling. You can't get that anywhere else! And I don't really care what I'm playing or singing, from Collibus at Download Festival, to my cover band at the local jam night, I enjoy it all!

If you could tour with any artist, who would that be?

I've already mentioned Hevy Devy in this interview... I reckon that would be one fun tour! Or Opeth... Or both? Any band or artist I feel I could learn something from.

Bloodstock - Down The Barrel Photography If you could tour anywhere in the world, is there a venue or particular city you would like to play?

Download was always the dream for me since I first went a decade ago, and I've done that! So maybeeeee... Download again but on a bigger stage? ;)

What do you think of the UK metal scene? How is the underground scene different from being in the spotlight?

There is a massive underground scene in the UK, and it's a huge amount of work. Keeping up the momentum is the hardest part, making sure you make your mark and people remember your name. Just because we've played an amazing summer at some pretty great shows, doesn't mean for one moment that we've "made it". There's still a long way to go!

What advice would you give to other young women who want to break into the rock and metal music scene?

Sonisphere - Mark Tosh Davies The Rock TrainDon't be a clone! There are far too many of them out there already, sadly. Find something that makes you unique and don't follow trends... Find a kick ass band and rock hard! Surround yourself with creatives who will take you seriously; the rock and metal scene can be a very sexist place to be sometimes... Not always the case, thankfully, but you will come across the occasional naysayers who might not take you as seriously simply because you have a pair of boobs. Fuck them. Don't be disheartened as you have nothing to prove to them, so use it as fuel and just be amazing! The judgmental people out there never expect that, and it's always rewarding to watch them eat their words! Be a force to be reckoned with, and above all, always be yourself.

So what’s next for Gemma Fox?

I have 2 more shows with Collibus this year, then a winter off where we will be focussing on writing for the next album, and planning on touring next spring onwards. I also want to make sure I set aside enough time to work on the new DamageScape material as well. And at some point, I'd also like to make a start on some solo material! Oh, and I've had an idea for a while now about possibly forming an all female rock trio just for fun! There is always something to be getting on with... ;)

Thanks so much to Gemma for taking the time to talk to Femetalism.  We are really looking forward to seeing Collibus continue to grow and develop as well as potentially more material from DamageScape.

If you want more  - go check out Gemma's acoustic session with Rotted Grape back in 2013 where she covers a Queen song and plays a DamageScape original.  A stunning performance.

You can also check out our recent feature on Collibus here.

Follow Gemma on:



Grab a copy of Collibus' album here.



Grab a copy of DamageScape's EP here.

Gemma Fox Music


Originally posted by Emma Sheridan on Femetalism.