In the middle of a grueling tour in which they play 34 shows in 35 days, Landmine Marathon vocalist Grace Perry called from a coffee shop in Des Moines, Iowa to speak with Music Designer James Whelan about her band, their new album, and even her favorite sci-fi movies.
James Whelan: When did you really first learn that you could scream like you do? Did you try just screaming once and have what you hear on a Landmine Marathon record come out or was it more of a process to develop your voice?
Grace Perry: It was definitely more of a process. I first started playing music when I was in high school in a pop punk, all girl band. We were really bad, but it was fun. From that I graduated from high school and started a band called Osama bin SARS and that was more of a performance band. We would dress in costumes and try to offend people as much as possible, and the people in the band with me couldn’t sing so we decided to scream. I was into hardcore but I hadn’t transferred into metal by any means in my life. When I was 19, our bassist Matt Martinez saw us perform at a local gallery in Phoenix and asked if I had thought of starting a metal band. I wasn’t really involved in that scene but I said of course because I love music and performing and that’s where Landmine Marathon came about. Matt and I are the two original members, Ryan (Butler) came in about a year later, and Dylan (Thomas) and Andy (York) have been in it for a few years as well. It’s been about 7 years, and I love metal and I love the scene, and that’s where I am.
JW: You’re not afraid to get into the pits, you’ve played shows with a broken nose, even gotten cut open on stage. You’re not just tough for a female, you’re tough by any standard. Was childhood Grace Perry the same way?
GP: I definitely have never been afraid of any of that kind of stuff. I’m skinny, but I’m 5’10 and can hold my own. I grew up with an older brother and we would wrestle around all the time. We grew up in the desert by a wash and we would always go out into the wash and get dirty and grimy. I’ve always been a tomboy, but that’s part of the music. It’s an aggressive form of music, so having an aggressive response to it is only natural. I’m not going to be mad at somebody if I get hurt because that’s the way the music and the scene is. It’s not that it’s violent, it’s more that it’s extremely emotional and extremely overpowering at times, especially when you’re performing it.
JW: If you could go back in time and talk to Grace Perry 10 years ago and tell her she’d be making her living playing metal right now, what do you think her reaction would be?
GP: (Laughs) I definitely don’t think she’d believe you or me. But music has always been such a huge part of my life that I’m not surprised I’m in a band at this point. It’s more of the genre and style, I never really thought I had it in me until I started playing it. I went to college and graduated a few years ago and thought “this is never going to go beyond that, it’s always going to be a temporary thing that I do because I’m young and can do it now.” Now that I’ve dedicated a larger portion of my life to it, it’s kind of liberating and shocking. I’m really lucky because not many people can say they do what I do and have done what I’ve done. And yeah, I’m not going to do it forever, I don’t think anyone can live off of a death metal band, but I’m definitely going to do it as long as I can.
JW: I was hoping to talk about “Gallows” a bit. It’s got a much heavier and fuller sound to it than your previous albums, and to me, it borders at times on suffocating. It seems the whole band stepped up the brutality on this album. Did you guys approach the writing or recording process differently? I know you do everything in Ryan’s studio and he engineers it all.
GP: Ryan definitely stepped it up on this. He wrote most of the album. Dylan wrote parts, but Ryan was the producer and writer and main influence over the whole musical aspect of it. He just wanted something that was very dominating and very basic. Everything’s in 4/4. We’re not a techy band, we’re a death metal band and we want to represent ourselves as such. As far as vocals go, Ryan and I talked about it and we really prefer the low end of my vocal range and he pushed me to focus on that. About 85% of the entire album is my lower, more guttural vocals. Lyrically I approached it with the same style, but the content is a lot different than previous albums. I worked a lot harder on it and did a lot more research on it than I had in the past.
JW: In the future, do you plan on recording all of your albums at Ryan’s studio or would you give some of that control over to someone else or somewhere else if that situation provided?
GP: I don’t want it to sound bad, but it would all depend on money. If we got a lot of money than we would go to the best possible person, but Ryan does it for, well, nothing (laughs). You can’t get a better price than that. He’s really good at what he does; he just recorded the new Exhumed album. I honestly don’t think any producer could be as patient and understanding with each individual band member than Ryan because he’s like my brother. Who better to do something like that than someone who knows me as well as he does, and because I’ve only experienced Ryan I don’t know if I’d feel as comfortable with somebody I’d never worked with before. On the other hand, we could go to a much more expensive studio if the finances were there, absolutely. So we’re not against it, it’s just more logistically, it makes more sense.
JW: You guys have released four full lengths in the past five years along with a couple splits in there while balancing tours and living your own personal lives. Is that sort of touring and recording schedule something you plan on keeping up at that speed or now that you guys have a little bit of a foothold in the metal world are you going to try to slow it down and milk what you’ve got right now?
GP: I honestly can’t tell you, it just depends what’s put in front of us. If we’re given the chance to tour with bands we really respect then I think we’re going to take those offers, but if nothing comes on the table than none of us are desperate to go out and tour seven months out of the year. We have always been a band that tries to be as true to ourselves as we can and I think we’re going to continue to do that. I guess my answer is that I don’t know, but I will be happy either way, I can tell you that much. Like you said, we’ve got a great collection already, and it’s something I’m very proud of and can look back on and be proud of no matter what happens in the future.
JW: I’m sure there’s no shortage of people in Arizona who would have you guys play house shows, which seems to be your best environment if you wanted to hang tight and not go touring.
GP: Yeah, house shows have always been my personal favorite, I’ve always felt it was the most intimate and raw form of really experiencing a live show because you are right there, you are next to that person, you are one in the same almost, it’s thrilling.
JW: Whenever there’s a blog, or magazine, or someone does an opinion piece of the hottest chicks in metal, you’re generally right up there on the list. Do Matt or Ryan ever show jealousy they’re not in a hottest dudes of metal list?
GP: (laughs) No, we have always done everything democratically in our band. Matt handles the finances, Ryan handles the writing and music, and any time I’ve been offered to do something like that, they’ll allow me to do whatever I want to do, and are going to support me no matter what, just as long as I represent the band in a way that we can be proud of and I’ve always done that. I’ve never dressed or acted in a way that would be disrespectful towards the band or myself, and I’m not ashamed to be a girl. I am a girl, and I’m not going to pretend I’m a dude because I’m not a dude! I’m definitely not going to exploit that though.
JW: Does it flatter you or annoy you when the focus is more on the looks than the musicianship?
GP: I’m very flattered always, but at the end of the day, the people that come up to me at shows aren’t saying how hot I am, they’re saying how they really love my vocals. Even if they’re saying I’m just as good as a dude, I’m in a male dominated scene and if I’m being compared to other male vocalists I take that as a compliment. I take the people that come to shows and approach me much more seriously than I do people online.
JW: If there was a hottest dudes of metal list, which of your band mates would be on there?
GP: (sighs) Oh, goodness. I’d have to say Andy, just because he takes his shirt off at every show.
JW: What’s been your most memorable experience from this tour so far?
GP: Playing the Gramercy Theatre (in New York) was pretty amazing, just because of how many notable acts have played there prior to us. I never thought in my life I’d be playing something like that and it was a really great experience to be able to do something like that. As far as just, fun goes, everyone on this tour is awesome. It’s really rare that you get on a four band package tour and every single person on the tour is someone you can talk to and get along with and have a blast with and get drunk with. It’s funny because the guys in Lazarus A.D. have been chugging beer out of vuvuzelas on stage and off throughout the entire tour and it’s pretty hilarious to see them do that. We have a straight edge guy in my band, but besides him every single person on this tour has definitely participated in that.
JW: I would much rather watch people chugging beer out of vuvuzelas than blowing into them. What’s been the most rewarding part of your career so far?
GP: The most rewarding part is when I get genuine fans coming up to me, male or female, and tell me that I inspire them to create music of their own or art of their own. I think that being an inspiration towards someone that’s younger than you is heartwarming and flattering. I never in my life thought I’d be an inspiration to anybody and the fact that I am is something I’ll always carry with me for the rest of my life.
JW: I’ve got a few more quick ones. On your Twitter, it mentions that you like sci-fi, and I’m a bit of a geek in that aspect, so this might interest only me, but what’s your favorite sci-fi movie?
GP: Definitely do love “Star Wars”, but I’m such a nerd that I don’t even consider that true sci-fi because it has such fantasy elements to it, so I would have to say that I love “The Fifth Element” because it’s so fun and I actually dressed up as Lulu one year. Not the tape, but the orange suspenders and that was a blast. Also, the new Star Trek movie that just recently came out. I’m a huge Trekkie and have gone to Star Trek conventions, so that would have to be my #1 favorite out of loyalty towards Star Trek.
JW: How about favorite TV show?
GP: It would have to be, um, I would say, I can’t decide between Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica. I don’t know if you have watched that series, but…
JW: (Geeks out and interrupts) Choose Battlestar!
GP: Ok, Battlestar Galactica then.
JW: What’s your favorite beer you can’t get in Arizona that you’ve got to go on tour for?
GP: That’s a good question. I can’t think of my favorite beer outside of Arizona because my favorite beer of all time you can only get in Arizona. It’s Papago brewery; it’s called Orange Blossom.
JW: I will have to try that next time I’m in Arizona. Well, that’s all I’ve got Grace. Thank you and have a great rest of your tour.
GP: Alright, well thank you so much!
Landmine Marathon’s new album Gallows is out now via Prosthetic Records. You can listen to “Cutting Flesh From Bone” off of the album here.
– Submitted by James Whelan, Music Design
*Photo by Jeremiah Cooper