CHE (Arma Gathas) – Dead to this World
Che Snelting er vokalist i det melodiøse hardcorebandet Arma Gathas. Han var tidligere medgrunnlegger og vokalist i hardcorebandet Born from Pain, men byttet band i 2009. Denne karen har veldig mye fornuftig på hjertet i sitt meget utfyllende bidrag av The Deepthroat Series.
When did you start doing extreme vocals (What year and at what age)?
I was always into metal, and later on the metallic sort of Hardcore. The rough and extreme vocals always were my thing. I started my first band when I was 17/18, but that didn’t last more than a couple of rehearsals. I quickly decided that band wasn’t my thing.
When I started Born from Pain I did not use my voice the same way I did later on in my career or as I’m doing now in Arma Gathas. But I really started in 1997 when I was 19.
What made you start to do extreme vocals?
Just listening to those older bands: Sepultura when Max was still singing, Dwid from Integrity, Jorge from Merauder and Karl Buechner from Earth Crisis had a huge impact on me. Their vocals are still my favourites to date. The cool thing was, you could still hear what they were screaming without losing aggression or power. That death metal grunting was always too much for me, I couldn’t understand it, with the exception of George Fisher of Cannibal Corpse and that dude from Behemoth.
Can you describe the technique or the techniques you are using?
That changed a lot over the years. When I listen to the early Born from Pain demo, or the other early recordings it’s a totally different voice. Using my voice involves a lot of warming up, and stomach breathing. I try to use my throat as less as possible and try not to strain it as much.
It sounds weird, for someone who has a strong sounding voice, but I have a pretty "weak" voice. I can’t drink milk a couple of days before a show up until the day of a show. I can’t drink too much alcohol before or during a show. I have to avoid spicy food as much as possible and I have to do my vocal exercises and warm up at least half an hour before the show. After the show I have to cool down as well. So I have my exercises afterwards as well.
I always use my stomach as much as possible, when I sound check I put my hand on my stomach an make sure I’m breathing through my stomach. When breathing in I make sure my stomach fills up with air, when breathing out let the air leave my stomach. I also make sure there is enough air left in my body when I sing.
Has your technique changed during your career?
Hell yes. It’s funny to me when I listen to the first recordings. I later took a couple of vocal lessons from a vocal coach, but that hardly helped. I think I just started listening to me own body more and took rest when I needed it.
Have you ever hurt yourself by using a "wrong technique"?
Owe yes. The first year or so I used to blow out my voice on a regular basis. I used to get throat infections all the time. I used my voice the wrong way. I always thought I was doing the right thing, but eventually I wasn’t. The amount of medicine the doctor used to prescribe me, man, it was crazy. I just did not treat my body well. When it got more serious I took the time to spend more time on my voice.
Later on, as of 2001 I hardly had any problems with my voice anymore. Sure it would get tired every once in a while, but I would take my rest, drink tea and just treated it better. It was all a matter of routine and giving my voice the rest it needs.
Is there something you do on a regular basis to keep your voice in shape? Any routines?
I have a lot of routines. Before the show I start jogging in place for half an hour at least. During the jogging I warm up my voice by going up and down the bass scale (because I’m a bass). After I’m done, I do sit ups and push ups, and knee bends to get my breathing going the right way. It’s really important for me to drink enough water; preferably half a gallon. After the show I jog in place and cool down my voice by humming a couple of minutes. I drink mint tea and a bottle of water (not too cold).
In my regular life I don’t drink too much alcohol to stay healthy; I don’t do drugs for the same reason and drink as less milk as possible, only in my coffee. I try to stay in shape by riding a bike to work and visiting the gym a couple of times a week.
Do you think it can be dangerous to do extreme vocals?
Anyone who tells you that it doesn’t have its effect on your vocal chords has no idea what he or she is talking about. My technique is really good, and I can’t reach the highest regions of my voice anymore. With the right technique I think you will spare your voice and vocal chords more. But yeah it can be dangerous to some.
What is most important for you – to make cool sounds and interesting rhythms, or to have a clear diction/pronunciation?
To me it has to be the combination of both. On the Arma Gathas record "Dead to this World" I tried to perfect everything I ever did before. The rhythms had to be catchy and the vocals had to sound as aggressive as ever, but the listener has to have an idea what I’m singing about. There is a message in the music somewhere; I did not want it to get lost.
Do you think that extreme vocals can be made into a science, like "this is how it works for everyone, to make this sound you have to do this etc"? Or is it more intuitive and individual how to do it?
It’s a more intuitive thing, it’s an individual thing. What works or me, doesn’t necessarily have to work for others. I talked to a lot of other singers over the years. We all have different things and routines we use. We all have different techniques. I know someone who drinks Chocolate milk before a show, or someone who eats citrus fruit before a show. Some people drink more alcohol. Some people don’t need to warm up, some have to. I think the most important thing to remember is, is to listen to your voice. When it hurts it’s bad.
Do you have any advice to people who wants to start doing extreme vocals?
Find your own way. Record your own voice and listen how it sounds. If it sounds as if you’re straining your voice, try something different. Feel comfortable with how your voice sounds. It’s the only instrument you can actually ruin, and not be able to get a new one. When it’s broken, it will stay broken, you can’t fix it. Use a good warm up. Buy the "The Zen of Screaming DVD" and use some those advices, whatever works for you. Listen to your voice. When you have a cold à Don’t scream à You will ruin your voice.
If you really know how to sing properly, with melody, don’t start screaming. It’s more fun if you know how to sing than to scream.
Mention three extreme vocalists whose style you admire, and explain your choice. What specifically do you like about the styles of those three? Also mention three vocalists (not necessarily extreme vocalists) which you have been influence by, and explain in which way you have been influenced by each of them.
Jorge from Merauder has always been my favourite extreme vocalist. That guy’s voice is crazy. I saw Merauder play a bunch of times and he always performs great. The sound of his voice is so aggressive, yet you can understand every word.
Jaimey from Hatebreed is the guy that perfected that style of singing. He actually made a difference to the hardcore way of singing, without him losing the initial aggression. I also love the way the dude puts words to the music.
Dwid from Integrity up until the Seasons in the Size of Days is awesome as well, because of the darkness in his voice.
Kirk from Crowbar gets an extra mention. Why? Listen to Planets Collide on the "Odd Fellows Rest" album or "The Lasting Dose" on the "Sonic Excess in its purist form" album and you’ll know why.
My all time favourite singer is Ozzy Osbourne in his Sabbath years. My dad and me used to have musical Sundays when I was growing up. I remember listening to The Who, Led Zeppelin, Cream but Sabbath was always the band that stood out for some reason. I love Ozzy’s voice. I love the way he puts the words to the music and the sound of his voice.
Second singer is Mike Patton during his Faith No More years especially the Angel Dust album. On that record he does it all, he screams, yell, grunt and sing. It’s one of my favourite records of all time.
Third singer is Matthew Bellamy from Muse. Not just because of the way he sings or puts words to the music, but also because of his lyrics, which have a strong message, I always was a sucker for mainstream rock bands with a strong political or socially critical message. A band has to have something to say.
I love Glenn Danzig’s voice as well, but only up until the 4p album. After that his voice went downhill quick.
Who do you want to challenge in this series? (Who should be the next extreme vocalist to answer these questions?) Give a brief explanation for your choice.
I would say Kirk from Crowbar. He’s the only singer who sings the way he does. He’s totally unique in that aspect. He can do live what he does on record as well.