Interview with Sharon Bascovsky (guitars, vocals)
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: July 6, 2012
Going back in time, from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania came a band called Derkéta which was the first ever all-female Death Metal band. It was formed by Sharon Bascovsky (vocals, guitar and bass) and Terri Heggen (drums) in late 1988. With this lineup Derkéta recorded their debut demo in 1990, titled "The Unholy Ground" which was widely being spread in the underground tape trading scene just like the band's 2-track EP titled "Premature Burial" which was released on the highly controversial label Seraphic Decay Records during that same year. After those two releases, Derkéta basically ceased to exist. Sharon tried to continue with Derkéta, with primarily Jim Sadist of Nunslaughter helping her out on drums but this joint venture didn't lead to any new official recordings.
The year 2006 seemed to be an ideal time to bring Derkéta back again, this time having Sharon handling vocals and guitar, Terri on drums, Mary Bielich on second guitar and Robin Mazen on bass. What happened after that? Let one of the two original members, Sharon Bascovsky, share more news and updates about some of the band's activities in the last 6 years or so. Read on...
Luxi: Hey Sharon, first off I sincerely want to say I'm glad Derkéta is back. When did you first start thinking that it would be nice to get this first ever all-female Death Metal band breathing again and start creating some new material?
Sharon: Thank you! It's great to be back! I've always wanted to do it but it was about 10 years ago that I got serious about talking to Terri about doing it again. I always have song ideas floating around in my head so it just seems like it's something that I have to do.
Luxi: Back in the early 90's, it was you Sharon who was responsible for coming up with all the music for the band. How much has your role changed in the current line-up? Obviously you still do most of your stuff, however this time also allowing others to contribute to the band's songwriting process if someone has some good ideas for a song. Is thar correct?
Sharon: With "In Death We Meet", most of the songs were already written. Mary contributed by writing her own guitar parts on top of what was written, and even wrote a riff that I used in the song "Goddess of Death". For the next release, I'm sure Mary and Robin will both be contributing. We have a song in the works that is written by both me and Mary. The way it usually goes is someone will play a riff at practice, I'll record it, then arrange it to make it into a song. I'm looking forward to their contributions so that it will take some of the burden off of me, and then we'll be able to get songs written quicker for the next release.
Luxi: You have been working on the band's first full-length studio album titled "In Death We Meet" containing 8 tracks all in all. As far as I have understood, it's been a pretty tough road for you to get this album recorded. I mean, you re-recorded the whole thing all over again... What went wrong with your first attempt to get it recorded back in June 2011? Your Marshalls broke down or something, eh?
Sharon: I wish it was equipment failure!! Our first attempt was in February of 2011. We tried setting up a mobile studio (Studio #1) in our rehearsal room but it was just to record the drums. After that he wanted us to use computer amp modeling for our guitars and that is something that Mary and I struggled with. We wanted to mic our cabinets. I spent 3 hours the one day trying to find a computer amp to match my sound and it never happened. On top of it, when I would listen back to the recorded songs, I realized that we played them too fast and the song tempo wasn't right, so it lost the mood that I was going for, plus it made the lyrical placement a bit hard. I had to cut so much of the lyrics out to where the phrases were too choppy. And it didn't seem like any of us played to our best ability.
Since there were disagreements on how to continue with the recording and the performance wasn't where it should have been, I felt it best to just walk away and go into another studio where we could play live. Our second attempt was in October of 2011 at Logic Bomb Studio (Studio #2). All went well but I wasn't happy with the sound of my guitar, it didn't have a good balance/tone to compliment Mary's guitar sound. I recorded my guitar tracks 3 times and decided it's just not working for whatever reason. So I took the tracks to another studio (Studio #3) and re-tracked my guitars and got the sound that I was going for. This studio was going to finish the mix for us but he triggered the drums and that is something that we're not into. He wasn't happy with the natural drum tones and there were recording challenges for him, like the floor tom mic went bad during our recording so he had to pull the floor tom hits from bleed over from the tom tracks. Triggered drums just do not fit us, and I personally don't think it fits any band. It's a total distraction from every other instrument playing. The drum sound was something that he would not budge on and said either take it or leave it, so I said I'll have to leave it.
I took my re-tracked guitars back to Logic Bomb (Studio #2) and we finished the mix there. We're still not 100% happy with it, but due to the availability of the studio, the mix that we ended up with was done the day that we had to overnight the CD to get pressed to meet our release deadline. It was frustrating but we're going to make the mix corrections for the vinyl release (Studio #4, ha!). It was an eye-opening experience for me, and if anything, it has made me even more stubborn when it comes to working with a studio. The way I see it, it's the band that is paying for a service, to have someone record you the way that you want them to. But studio engineers do not see it that way. They think they know what's best, how things need to sound for the so called industry standards, but the industry standards are not what we're all about. Polka bands beware!! Studio #3 actually accomplished the heaviest warmest guitar sound ever but Studio #2 wasn't able to get that same sound, even though I had the tracks. We have phasing issues but we'll fix it for the vinyl. And this is the short version!!! This whole process was 14 months, and cost me a lot of money.
Luxi: "In Death We Meet" opens up with the album's longest number, a song called "Goddess of Death" which reminds me of the "Mental Funeral"-era Autopsy, with some doomy side of Winter in a good measure. Why did you end up choosing this particular track to open the album?
Sharon: That song was written back in 1991 and when I wrote it, I always thought of it as the first track because it has the intro. I like when bands have an intro to an album, it just sets the album off with a mood.
Luxi: Undoubtedly one of your plans before the reunion of the band was, if Derkéta were to ever return back to form, all that music you created in the past must somehow also be linked in this new coming, otherwise it would feel like cheating your fans, without having THAT specific sound that once made Derkéta sound like Derkéta, correct?
Sharon: Yes, I had some recordings that I did with Jim from NunSlaughter and the songs that I recorded with him were altered to a more mid-paced tempo. Back then I was shy and didn't really know Jim very well and just went along with whatever he said, but I wasn't happy. I promised myself that I would never do that again and put my foot down when it comes to the songs in their entirety. We've been talking about re-recording those songs in their original form, although that might be weird to do so, having two versions of songs. We're tossing up the idea anyway, but for this album, I made sure everything was kept to where it should be because I'm into the older style of doom death metal and I don't want to ever change away from that. I don't like it when bands change, or upgrade themselves to modern times. Modern isn't always necessarily good. It works for some, but not all, and it's nice to have a variety of musical styles out there to listen to.
Luxi: What about your death grunts; was it easy to find that right tone for your vocals since obviously it's been ages since you growled that way?
Sharon: Yeah, I don't have a problem doing the vocals that way. It's something that comes very easy but I just have to watch that I don't get a cold or anything because that does affect the tone. Right now I'm getting over bronchitis and the cough seems to last for months. We have a show coming up in August so I'm nervous about it, hopefully the cough will be gone by then. I get bronchitis every April/May because of allergies so I have to take allergy medicine every day now to try to prevent it from happening.
Luxi: How proud are you this particular release? Do you finally feel like now that you have recorded the album, that it somehow also closes a cycle in your life, knowing deep down in your heart and soul that this album should have been done a long time ago - like roughly 20 years ago?
Sharon: Yes, I'm very proud that this album finally came out. It's been nagging at me for at least 20 years now and it's so refreshing to be able to hear the songs. I actually listen to the CD a lot, which I've never done before. My other releases I never really listened to, besides when I got them initially. This one I've listened to almost daily and just make mental notes of what needs tweaked for the vinyl.
Luxi: Is there more accurate information available for a vinyl release of "In Death We Meet" yet; any date or anything, who will release it and so on?
Sharon: We're hoping it will be later this year but it depends on the finances. We're going to self-release it, as we will with any of our releases going forward. We're still recouping our costs from the CD. Once we accomplish that, then we'll be able to put out the vinyl. We're going to do a double gatefold on 180 gram vinyl.
Luxi: You have stated that "In Death We Meet" may even be Derkéta's final release (don't let it be - Luxi). Is this about all of your other activities in your life; like daily jobs, families, husbands, houses and so on that need to be taken care of, or do you feel like after this record you don't feel like you owe anything to your old fans anymore and that you are free from any obligations you may have felt toward both the band and your fans?
Sharon: When I was initially thinking that I have to get this release done, I was thinking that it would be the last Derkéta release. That is why I approached Terri into playing on it, she was there in the beginning and I wanted her to be there in the end. I held off on recording the album, it was going to be recorded back in 2002, but I wanted to finish the band with her. But once we got back into practicing and playing live shows, it's something that I can't walk away from just yet so there will be more releases. But for Terri, she only agreed to do the album so she is no longer going to play drums going forward. We all hoped that wouldn't be the case but she has so much going on in her personal life which has more of a priority for her. We all respect her decision even though none of us are thrilled about it. She did great on the recording and when we played live and it didn't seem right to us for her to quit but it's what she wants. We now have Mike Laughlin on drums, who played in Creation is Crucifixion and Cattle Decapitation. Derkéta will no longer be all female but that isn't something that we care about. Mike is really cool and laid back; he fits right in with us. Robin is the one who gets the credit for making sure Derkéta reformed with the full lineup. When Terri and I told her we were going to record again, she said let's do it right, and that she would play bass and we'll get Mary on guitar and start playing some shows. If you know Robin, she's not easy to say no to! So we thought, why not, let's give it a shot and see how it goes. And now I'm hooked!
Luxi: You attended the Maryland Death Fest at the end of May and there was also a pile of Derkéta's CDs and "In Death..." t-shirts for sale there at the Sevared Records booth. How was this experience even if Derkéta didn't play there? Was it your first time going to Maryland Deathfest?
Sharon: We actually sold a lot of merch at their booth! We were surprised being that Derkéta is still somewhat unknown to the masses, we're still very underground but fortunately a lot of underground people who go to MDF! We've been trying to play MDF but they never heard of us so not sure if they'll ever ask us to play. I go to MDF every year, ever since I saw Bolt Thrower there about three years ago. It doesn't even matter to me what bands are playing because it's a chance for me to see my friends for a few days and have some fun. MDF is always a great time!!! I highly recommend people to go if they've never went before. My friends and I have a tradition, we go down to the harbor, drink a few pictures of Sangrias, then off to the fest for some beer and watch bands. Nothing tops that, it's a great time, I just wish the fest was longer!
Luxi: Derkéta ain't turning down gig offers completely either, and in fact, you should play in your home town Pittsburgh on August 18th. Is this going to be more like an event where some other band will play with you, or is it going to be just Derkéta playing alone (record release party for "In Death We Meet", perhaps?)?
Sharon: It's going to be a few bands playing, the details are not totally worked out as they're waiting on other bands to confirm along with the venue. This will be our first time playing live with Mike and we're all excited about that! We were talking about having a CD release party, I'm sure we will eventually, ha! If we do, it will be in September. I'd like to play New York, Cleveland and Chicago, and hopefully make it down to Robin's home town in Tampa.
Luxi: During 2011, Derkéta did four shows all in all, that isn't that much but at least it surely helped getting Derkéta's name on people's lips. The importance of playing gigs cannot ever be underestimated when thinking of its promotional value. Without doing any gigs, bands may easily get forgotten nowadays - not including a band like Bathory (R.I.P. Quorthon). What do you personally think of these promotional aspects of playing live whenever you want to get Derkéta booked for gigs? I bet you don't always think like how many new fans you could possibly make if you played this or that show, do you?
Sharon: Yeah, we'd like to play more shows and we do think it's important. The good thing about the Pittsburgh scene is we have a big Metal scene, which is divided up between Punk, Hardcore, Doom Metal, Death Metal, Thrash Metal and Black Metal. Everybody here supports each other, whereas other cities don't seem to be as welcoming to play with other Metal genres. The toughest thing right now with scheduling shows is because Robin lives in Tampa and is always on tour selling merch. We have played a show without her on bass just because we don't want to keep passing up shows. In fact, she's going to be on tour for our August show so we're going to play that one without her. September is when she's available so we're going to try and book as much as we can then. But yeah, it's a great feeling when someone sees you play live for the first time and enjoys what they're hearing.
Luxi: Do you feel like as long as playing single-off gigs here and there is like a fun thing – you'll certainly play them, but if it starts feeling boring and tiresome, then you will definitely step away from doing them?
Sharon: I don't know, we haven't gotten to that point yet so I'm not sure how we'll be with it. I can't imagine that we would get bored with playing shows. So far it's always been fun. The only downer is having to lug the equipment around!! Our cabinets literally weigh 100 lbs and we have to carry them down steep stairs so that is the only aspect that can be looked upon as tiring! But once you're at the show, it's always fun, getting to hang out with your friends, meet new people and play some Metal.
Luxi: From the past times of Derkéta, can you think of any particular show that you will always remember for some reason?
Sharon: We only played our first live show in January of 2011. Before then, we never had a full lineup to play shows. Our first show was amazing, people flew in to see us and the place sold out. The funny thing about that show is we opened up with Premature Burial. We had them play the intro on the demo and Terri had asked them to turn out the lights during the intro. She had meant to turn off just the stage lights but they turned out ALL of the lights in the building. We couldn't see a thing and we were trying to tune, I got a little disoriented because I didn't know what was going on. Then the lights came on and were really bright so then we were blinded! The video looks cool because it was complete darkness, people started taking photos and with the storm intro playing in the background, it almost looked like it was lightning flashes. In a way it worked to a good advantage because I was really nervous but the light distraction seemed to get my mind off of being on stage for a moment.
Luxi: Derkéta will also appear in a new horror comic book called "Death Shriek" (along with 4 other Death Metal bands), which will feature 5 short comic stories based on the songs from the featured bands. Would you mind giving us more details about this project, how you got involved with it, etc.?
Sharon: Yes, Dennis from Grave Descent had mentioned that he was thinking about bringing his old comic book back to life, but to have the comics based on songs from bands. He approached us, Rottrevore and Hubris, along with his band Grave Descent. Originally Acrostichon was going to be in the first issue but Richard's schedule got a bit hectic for him so they're going to be in the second issue. Dennis found different artist to draw up the comics, Kam Lee from the original Massacre lineup is drawing the comic for Derkéta, it's for our song "Witchburned". Dennis will also have a CD to go along with the songs featured in the comic, it's such a brilliant idea!! I can't believe no one has thought of doing this before and we're extremely honored to be in the first issue.
Luxi: Going to the past times of Derkéta again with this question, many already happen to know that the band split up due to some inner conflicts in the early 90's; Terri and Mary joined Dana Duffey to form Mythic, and ever since there has been some other band involvements with all of you. What I would like to know is how much do you think these past years of being separated from each other have strengthened the chemistry between each of you in the current line-up, especially between Terri and you?
Sharon: We've all grown up over the years for one thing! There was a lot of immaturity by us all back then and we fought over the tiniest of things. It's real embarrassing for us to look back on it all as it all was so stupid. Now we all respect each other's time, we don't give each other shit about anything really. If you can't make practice this week, we'll catch up with you next week. We all know that when it comes down to it, everybody will be ready to play a show, and that the band is something for fun. Our personal lives come first and I think our friendships are stronger because of it.
Luxi: It was you and Terri who did the semi-legendary "The Unholy Ground" demo together in 1990. Can you still remember anything from those recording sessions like how tough it was to get it recorded since it was you who did the vocals, guitar and bass on that demo, while Terri did the drums. I bet it was kind of a challenging session for both of you?
Sharon: No, it actually wasn't too bad, it was just 4 songs. I didn't mind recording the guitar, vocals and bass. Although for drummers, they're always done recording first so they get to sit back and relax and wait until it's time to mix! We had fun with that recording. We were young and were excited to be doing it.
Luxi: Talking about some reunions of once-defunct Death Metal bands, as you have probably noticed this whole Death Metal genre seems to be kind of blessed by getting some old names back from the graves – bands like Morgoth, Asphyx, Grave, Autopsy, Massacre, etc. just to name a few. Would say that you are pretty excited and thrilled at having a possibility to hear some new stuff from some of these bands and even seeing them playi live after many years of absence? For example both Morgoth and Demigod played at Maryland Deathfest this year. Did you happen to see them playing live there?
Sharon: I'm loving the fact that these bands are all back!!! These are the bands that I listened to back then so it's refreshing to hear the familiar!! Dream Death just recently reformed for a live show and even performed a new song! You can check it out the videos from that show on my YouTube channel, DerketaDeathMetal. There are so many bands out there these days, it's hard to keep up with what is out there. People are always rattling off band names to me, it's so overwhelming, but to hear the old band names back is killer!! I think I missed Demigod and Morgoth unfortunately. I didn't have the MDF schedule to know who was on at what stage. Next year I'll make sure I pick one of those up! I loved seeing Saint Vitus and Electric Wizard though!! Godflesh were a treat to see as well!
Luxi: Are there any new bands that have impressed you lately? Then again, I suppose Death Metal isn't the only form of music you listen to but you are also pretty open-minded toward some other type of stuff as well, aren't you?
Sharon: Right, I don't just listen to Death Metal. I grew up in the 70's so I listen to a lot of 70's music more so than Death Metal. One of the newer bands that I like is Premonition 13, which is Wino's new band. I saw them when they played here in Pittsburgh and was really impressed. Another one is Vallenfyre, Gregor from Paradise Lost's new band. I like Triptykon too, even though they're not too new these days. Pittsburgh has a lot of good bands worth checking out, like Argus. Also Mary's other band called Del Rios, where she takes on the vocals. It's good rocking Metal!!!
Luxi: Well, I think I got it mostly covered. I want to sincerely thank you Sharon for doing this interview with me, and hopefully you found my questions worth answering. Last but not least I want to wish you all the best with all of your future endeavors in your life, with or without Derkéta. Any last words, curses, swear words, etc., perhaps?
Sharon: Thank you for taking the time to send me these questions!! I really enjoyed answering them. If anyone is interested in seeing what we're up to, you can check out our website at www.derketa.com or find us on Facebook. We have an online webstore now so buying merch is a little bit easier. Hopefully we can get out there and play some more shows and make our way over to Europe and South America! Keep up supporting the underground bands! Be mindful of burning CDs as the bands need the CD sales to keep going. If you like a band, buy their merch and attend their live shows so that they can continue to put music out for you. Bands are lucky to break even. Everybody stay safe and we look forward to meet up one day!
|Other information about Derkéta on this site|
|Review: In Death We Meet|
|Video: The Unholy Ground (Live)|
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