ALISSA (Arch Enemy)
Here is the lady who took over as the lead singer of ARCH ENEMY after Angela Gossow decided to quit. Alissa has previously done some live vocals for Nightwish and Kamelot, she started growling at age 17 after listening to the Arch Enemy album "Wages of Sin" and she has some strong opinions on extreme vocals. Here is ALISSA WHITE–GLUZ and her contribution to The Deepthroat Series.
When did you start doing extreme vocals (What year and at what age)?
I started singing extreme metal at the age of 17 in 2003, I believe.
What made you start to do extreme vocals?
I listened to Wages of Sin and thought it sounded amazing, so I tried that vocal style myself. Before that I had been singing for a little while, but only in a rock/punk type of voice.
Can you describe the technique or the techniques you are using?
I’m really just growling.. I’m not sure what the technique is. I have never taken lessons, I am completely self-taught. I can gauge more or less melody into my screams and change their attack, velocity and pitch… it’s really just something I developed myself over years of practice and I’m not sure if the technique has a name.
Has your technique changed during your career?
Oh absolutely. Every show is a learning experience. I always try to improve and learn from others as well as from myself. I would say I’m a much better vocalist now than I was 2 or 5 or 10 years ago.
Have you ever hurt yourself by using a "wrong technique"?
No, the only time singing hurts is if I have a cold. Then it really sucks!
Is there something you do on a regular basis to keep your voice in shape? Any routines?
I am vegan, I’m straight-edge, I eat mostly raw, I avoid caffeine, I drink plenty of water, I run and workout regularly, and I sing just for fun every day. This is all stuff I would do even if I wasn’t a singer though – but it definitely helps to keep my instrument, in this case my body, in prime condition.
Do you think it can be dangerous to do extreme vocals?
Not at all. Not any more dangerous than any other instrument.
What is most important for you – to make cool sounds and interesting rhythms, or to have a clear diction/pronunciation?
Sometimes a messy pronunciation helps to accentuate the anger in the scream, sometimes very clear diction is better. There are so many factors that go into creating the right feel for the right words/parts of songs. I definitely love creating interesting rhythms and playing with how I pronounce the words to have diversity in the vocals.
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?
I think that regular singing or opera singing has been somewhat made into a science already and I think that’s kind of a bad thing. Singing, to me, is an expression of emotion and thought through music… nobody can teach you a universal "correct" way of doing that. Most of the singers that I really love would probably be considered terrible and "wrong" according to textbooks, like Brody Dalle or Freddie Mercury. I have also met singers who had been taking vocal lessons for years and did all the "right" techniques, but their voices were not appealing and did not connect with me at all. I really very much prefer real and raw vocalists… and I have discussed this with some of my friends who are also vocalists in successful bands. We can feel it right away if a singer is "authentic" or not. I would much rather hear someone who is making mistakes but sounds real than someone who sounds like they are rehashing something they learned. Even cracking in the voice, messed up breathing, off-key notes, etc… all these things that are considered "bad" are things that I love, that create a real sense of emotion. So – I don’t think ANY type of singing can be made into a science, although I’m sure it has been attempted for extreme vocals already.
Do you have any advice to people who wants to start doing extreme vocals?
Yes! Listen to your body and start slowly. Practice a lot! Do not smoke or drink!
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.
Angela Gossow – just the ultimate in anger and aggression.
Devin Townsend – extremely diverse and a master of so many different styles of vocals.
Phil Anselmo – perfect balance of anger and control.
Freddie Mercury – such raw, powerful emotion in his voice and what a range!
M. Shadows – great, unique tone and a huge range of capabilities.
Brody Dalle – amazing natural tone.
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.
Oh, cool! I get to challenge someone? Devin Townsend! I’ve wanted to pick his brain for years!