Why I joined Omicron
I was a happy child. Loud, cheerful, always trying to climb trees or ride skateboards the wrong way and generally experimenting with the things you should and shouldn’t do. This got me into trouble more often than not and led to more than a few visits to doctors and hospitals. I didn’t like getting into trouble or going to doctors, so I kicked my rebellious habits to become quieter and more docile. Combine that with a broken home and you get a kid that boxed everything up and became as meek and subdued as it could. I hid and kept quiet, desperately trying to be ‘mom’s good girl’.
Fast forward a decade or so and this introverted, quiet kid – with bursts of loud cheerfulness, because you can’t hide who you are – was living a difficult life. Constantly on the lookout for bullies and mean-spirited kids while trying to be good so as not to put any strain on the single-parent household. It was exhausting. I felt a lot of resentment and anger, both towards the kids at school and my deadbeat father. So, when I first encountered a metal song – Metallica’s Master of Puppets, for those of you wondering – I had a bit of a revelation. I told the person I was with that ‘When I grow up, I’m going to be a metalhead’. I didn’t take too long growing up. Poor mom.
When I was about 14 years old, there was a compulsory music class at school. Our homework every week was to either play a piece of music on a flute or sing that same piece. Usually, I would learn to play it on the flute, as that was what most kids did, and I did not like drawing attention to myself. But one day, I had completely forgotten to do the homework and I ended up improvising the singing. My teacher forbade me from using the flute in her class again and signed me up for the school choir the same day. Weirdest thing anyone had ever done, but it kick-started everything that came after it. I became more and more fascinated with singing and started actively looking for bands a couple of years later. Didn’t stay in the choir, though.
I spent several years sort of drifting in and out of different bands, most of which wanted to do loads of things but never quite made it that far. I usually sensed pretty early on that either I didn’t belong there, or the band was on the verge of breaking up and I was fighting a losing battle. But at least I got to be on stage once. That's me on the left, at said gig in... 2003?
I discovered the local metal pub when I was about 16 years old. It didn’t take long for me to become a regular. As is the case with probably every metal pub in history, this one was filled to the brim with metal musicians of varying skill and band affiliation. I became friends with several of them. One guitarist in particular became a good friend and we decided to create a band together. We didn’t really have a goal in mind, we just shared a love of metal (and Metallica in particular) and wanted to see where we could take things.
The next few years are a bit hazy, but I know I spent every free second I had looking for band members, going to rehearsals and taking care of admin stuff while trying to find my voice as a vocalist. I only used clean vocals – I sounded a bit like Amy Lee, except way more timid – and I had a hard time creating vocal lines. Musicians came and went, including my fellow founding member, and I still came no closer to creating even one coherent line. I got the same feedback over and over again: ‘You need to change it, I don’t like it’. ‘Change it how?’ ‘Well, I don’t know. Just change it.’ It was so incredibly frustrating. I really liked these guys, but somehow, I wasn’t getting anywhere. I wonder now if it was because I felt pressured by them. Or, more likely, because I put too much pressure on myself. I did not allow myself to sing a note out of key or to experiment. I didn't understand that it was impossible to get vocal lines right on the first try.
Anyway, long story short, they ran out of patience and kicked me out of the band. I was completely shell-shocked. This had been my project, I had started it and nursed it for years. And now I was out. I was so disappointed that I stopped making music altogether. I was also really angry for a really long time. Singing and metal faded from my life. I spent my nights dancing at goth parties instead. Fifteen years passed in the blink of an eye.
I got into trouble about five years ago. I had been seeing therapists on and off since my early youth, but I was still not getting to the core of things. But then I found a really good one and suddenly I was dealing with all the emotions I had buried for 30 years. And I got the Big Questions again. “What makes you happy? What gives you energy?” I only had one answer: making metal music.
Life got in the way, but finally about 18 months ago, I put my first ad out on a social media platform, entitled ‘Wanted: metal band that’s just a bit off. On offer: slightly eccentric vocalist’. I got a few responses, some from bands that clearly hadn’t read my ad beyond the word vocalist, as they wanted me to sing in projects that didn’t even come close to the description in my ad; others from people who were genuinely interested. I spent some time with one band that was still getting their shit together, but though we matched well in personality, we didn’t match musically and I didn’t make the cut.
Tired of my clean vocals not working and tired of being so shy every chance seemed to pass me by, I decided to learn the only ‘proper’ language of a metal vocalist: grunts. Luckily for me, I had a great contact already, a friend of mine who taught just that. I signed up for her classes (check out Extreme Vocal Coach, you won’t be disappointed) and started the long, arduous process of re-discovering my voice and what sounds I could make. It was – and still is– time-consuming and, for someone as impatient as I am, slow. My insecurities make it difficult for me to practice as much as I should, and I still have a really hard time accepting that I will never sound like Randy Blythe or Corey Taylor. I can only sound like me. But I am developing my own voice and that’s liberating. Finally, I can start creating vocal lines that really speak to me and that will express the frustration and anger inside.
My ad went up again, I think it was the third time, last September. And as they say, third time lucky. Philippe responded, hesitantly. ‘You sound like a great fit, but I live 1,5 hours away.’ I told him I was willing to bridge the proverbial gap, provided the music was good. And it was. It really was. I sent him a recording of my fledgling vocal skills, reminding him that I was a novice at grunting. He said it sounded like I had a lot of potential and he liked what he was hearing. I was so relieved.
So, we met on Skype first, to see if we connected well enough to be in a band together. We talked for three (!) hours straight and most of it had nothing to do with the music he wrote or where I would fit in. But we had a great time and clearly connected. We decided to go for it. So, in non-corona times, I travel to his neck of the woods every two weeks to record vocals and tinker around with the music. It feels like we mostly just mess around, but we get a lot of work done in a couple of hours. We have this connection musically where we can hear small things in the other’s work that we can tweak and improve upon. So, writing songs is fast and vocal lines are created in a snap. I never hear the comment of ‘I don’t like it, change it’. I get ‘maybe we could try this here’ instead, and somehow that is so much more productive. The way we work together just makes sense and making music is fun and challenging, the way I always wanted it to be. Plus, he loves my lyrics, which is the greatest compliment an avid writer like myself can receive.
Why did I join Omicron? Because Philippe is an amazing guitarist, the music has loads of potential and I feel validated and understood as a person. But if I’d written that as a first sentence, this blog post would have been much too short.