MARISSA MARTINEZ (Cretin)
MARISSA MARTINEZ is the lead singer and guitar player of the American death metal and grindcore band CRETIN. The band was formed back in 1992 but they disbanded four years later. Luckily Marissa and her band mates started up again in 2001 and today they are here with their second full length entitled "Stranger". Marissa started as an extreme metal vocalist when she was 17 and admits that she more or less hurt her voice every time she does the vocals. Read more about that and more. Here is The Deepthroat Series with Marissa Martinez from CRETIN.
When did you start doing extreme vocals (What year and at what age)?
It must have been 1992, I was 17. The night before we started Senior year of High School Matty and I went to our first death metal show. It was Malevolent Creation, Cannibal Corpse, Agnostic Front and Obituary. We were both already into death metal, but after seeing that show we knew that’s what we wanted to do. That’s how we wanted to play.
The next day I approached a drummer who I used to skateboard with, and asked him if he wanted to jam with us. He was a thrash drummer typically, but he was into the idea of joining a death metal band. That was more or less the day that Cretin was officially founded.
(Photo: Ester Segarra)
What made you start to do extreme vocals?
For some reason, it was always assumed that I would do the vocals. I’m not sure why. Matty and I originally planned on doing dual vocals, because like everyone in the underground in those days, we were heavily influenced by Carcass. Over time we decided that having a single, mid-range vocalist was the right direction for the band.
With the new album, we’re more or less back to doing dual vocals again. But, this time we’re both doing mid-range vocals rather than high and low. I’m still the primary vocalist for the most part, but Matty adds a lot of character and support to every song.
Can you describe the technique or the techniques you are using?
I pretty much scream from the bottom of my throat and use my stomach muscles to control my breathing. I also try to keep some of my voice in my vocals, shouting rather than doing a full death metal growling.
Has your technique changed during your career?
Yes. When I first started I would do high pitched Jeff Walker type vocals. When we did the "Cretanic Grind Ambush" 7 inch, I was mixing Oscar Garcia (Terrorizer, Nausea) with Scott Carlson (Repulsion). When we did "Freakery" I pretty much just went for Scott’s vocals, but mixed in a bit of Martin Schirenc (Pungent Stench). Before we recorded "Stranger" we had spent a week touring with Napalm Death and I spent a decent amount of time hanging out with Barney. I couldn’t help but learn some things from him. I tried to mix some of that with the Oscar, Scott, Martin influences I already had.
Have you ever hurt yourself by using a "wrong technique"?
Pretty much every time I do vocals, I end up with a gravely voice for the next day.
(Photo: Sean Wix)
Is there something you do on a regular basis to keep your voice in shape? Any routines?
No. Which is probably another reason I end up gravely voiced for a day. We only rehearse once a week, when we’re rehearsing. It’s pretty much the only time I do vocals. Prior to recording for "Stranger" I would practice a couple nights a week in the coat closet of my apartment. I know… It’s ironic. I had to go into the closet to practice vocals… Go figure.
Do you think it can be dangerous to do extreme vocals?
Sure. But, I doubt anyone in extreme music really cares about the dangers, other than to push them as far as we can.
What is most important for you – to make cool sounds and interesting rhythms, or to have a clear diction/pronunciation?
I care a lot about rhythm and pronunciation. I want my vocals to sound like vocals. I want people to feel the urge to sing along with them. It’s hard to inspire that when your riffs and vocals are all an overwhelming assault to the senses. Don’t get me wrong, I like music like that too. But, for our songs, I want them to have something recognizable that people can latch on to.
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 suppose there’s some general guidelines that can work for most people. But, every person’s throat is different. What works for some won’t work for all. Nobody taught me how to do vocals. I just listened and tried to mimic the ones I liked. So, I suppose it’s a little bit of intuition as well as practice for me.
Do you have any advice to people who wants to start doing extreme vocals?
Listen and practice. Find a place where you can be alone and scream your head off, without worrying about making mistakes. I used to scream along with my favorite albums while driving around in my car. That’s probably where I’ve practiced more than anywhere.
(Photo: Sean Wix)
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.
Well, Scott Carlson is obviously my biggest influence. Repulsion made my favorite album of all time I just love everything about it. That album really speaks to me, vocals included.
I love Martin Schirenc’s sass. He’s a great vocalist with so much character. Pungent Stench has always been a favorite of Cretin.
I’ve always loved Barney’s vocals too. But, like I said, after spending time on tour with him, and listening to how ferociously he projects… He has really really become a major influence.
I’d also claim Oscar Garcia, Tom Arraya, and John Tardy as vocal inspirations. I can’t help but sing along with those guys when I hear them.
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’m going to go with Barney Greenway. I’d love for every aspiring vocalist to experience the same inspiration that I got from talking with him.