Interview with Karyn Crisis

[Karyn Crisis]

In the entire history of modern music, few bands can claim to have successfully attained a level of artistic innovation and versatility without compromising one iota of their integrity like New Yorkers Crisis. Throughout the early 90’s the experimental metal/hardcore act have gained a cult status in the underground realms of extreme music due to their ferocious and genre-defying onslaught and the disturbing and intimidating voice of Karyn Crisis. Sadly, three years ago while they were writing their fifth record, the band has announced against all expectations their intentions to put the band on halt for an indefinite period of time.
For the second time in their career, Crisis has split-up abruptly with their band members reaffirming their will to pursue other artistic interests.
After the split, vocalist Karyn Crisis moved away from the music business and dedicated herself to different forms of art like painting and photography and even launched her own women's clothing line called Exorsister.
Just recently, Karyn have made public that she was preparing her solo debut album following four albums with Crisis and several participations with other artists. There’s a certain curiosity to find out why Karyn Crisis only now have decided to embark on a solo journey. The first thing we’ve enquired Karyn when we approached her by e-mail was exactly that, why now?

“When I left Crisis, it was to embark on a journey within. My lyrics have always dealt with this concept, the actions it takes to carry each journey out, what the experiences are on the way to finding a catharsis, and documenting the war… in others words, facing one’s demons, pain, trying to understand them and gain some knowledge with which to carry forward and build a better ‘me’. This time, I wanted to find a process that would break through the vicious cycle in life of receiving wound, trying to heal wound, receiving wound again. The creative process alone wasn’t enough to bring me peace at the time. I needed to go much deeper, to test my limits and capabilities as one does on a vision quest. For the majority of the time after I left Crisis, I wanted nothing to do with music, the music business, I stopped going to shows, and I felt at the time that I never wanted to sing again. I equated that world with disappointment and pain and was no longer interested in ‘trying to make it music’ or pursue a life of such sacrifice. I began to ask myself, before the hiatus, «can I ever stop sacrificing and just be? Am I going to spend the rest of my life hoping that at some point I’ll make enough money to be able to have the life experiences I want? Will I ever have the time to do other things I want, like painting and being free from working for someone else»? I was also asking why I was dealing with certain idiots, a booking agency had ripped Crisis off for a good amount of money, we had a manager who was working instead to promote his own band and doing shit for Crisis, and I just realized I didn’t want to deal with fucking morons anymore. There was no point to be congenial and pleasant for the sake of dysfunctional relationships. And interviewers, stop asking me how I feel about, in your opinion, other female fronted bands that are more successful than Crisis and instead ask me about my lyrics, my stage performance, my voice, my vision. I had enough and I decided I deserved much more. At the time of the hiatus, I decided the time was now to make the changes I want, and I wanted my own space, I wanted to step out of the rat race, and I wanted to explore others parts of life. I wanted change, and the change had to begin with me. And after that, suddenly I felt compelled to make music, even though I wasn’t sure at first if I wanted to. It felt like something I was supposed to do with urgency. Everything I do I do with my sense of integrity.”

The album is currently being written by Karyn and Davide Tiso, guitar player of Italian experimentalists Ephel Duath. How did you and Davide get together to write the record and what’s like working with him?

“A common friend of ours introduced us because he knew I was looking for the right people to make my album with. Meeting Davide was fate, a magical once-in-a-lifetime experience. In many ways, personal and creative, we are symbiots, we complete each other. Working with him is exciting, because he’s an incredible songwriter and guitar player who’s always pushing his limits and arriving in fantastic new places. He’s a sonic painter with a dark, haunting, emotive palette. There seems to be nothing he can’t do, and hearing what he creates opens new worlds for me. He is super focused, has an incredible understanding of music, and works fast while at the same time creating profound passages. His songs are more stories, journeys, which is what can also be said about my lyrics and vocal style. What I’m really excited about is that his sense of rhythm is just as fucked up as mine, yet distinct, so as I work my way vocally into his songs, I’m treading uncharted territory, the unknown. At first, the plan was for him to the guitarist and songwriter for the album, but soon enough I told him I wouldn’t want to play the songs live without him. He’s the soul behind those notes and beats, and it would be sad for someone else to be playing them. So then, the plan became not for us to develop my solo album, but for us to create a new band together, the Karyn Crisis Band. He decided that not only would he join me as partner in this creative pursuit, but he’d also join me in day to day life, and we married.”

Do you have other musicians lined-up to play on the record?

“Still looking, we have musicians we like prepared to work session for the album recording, but we’d rather hold out to find the right people who want to continue on as the touring band.”

Where does the new material fit in your discography?
Are there any obvious points of comparison with Crisis or you’re touching new things you somehow couldn’t explore with the band? What can we expect from it?

“It’s a new beginning! Comparisons to Crisis are unlikely, except for my voice, I suppose. Vocally I’m taking up where I left off with ‘Like Sheep Led to Slaughter’, which saw me stretching my voice in new ways anyway. Sonically, musically Davide’s style and finesse are quite different, but have a darkness, a haunting beauty that makes sense for my vocal style. Similarly, his guitar playing is a departure from his band, Ephel Duath. Yet each of us has strong, distinct, unique styles which are our signatures, and carry over into this new music. So, you can expect something difficult to describe.”

Is there any pressure to deliver a strong work knowing how relevant and influential Crisis had become in the underground music scene?

“The pressure to deliver a strong work comes from within us and is not dictated by our histories in music. Everything I do I do with a sense of purpose and integrity that comes from within me. Some people are born angry, others become angry in reaction to their environment. Some people are born with drive to create, even if that creation and expression is not understood by the majority of people, and regardless of positive/negative feedback. I’m born angry, born driven to do things my way, and it’s a mechanism that is internal. Davide is much the same.”

So when is the record due for release? Have you already started to conceive ideas for an album name?

“There’s not a release date yet, it all hinges on when we begin the studio process.”

Crisis never got the chance of completing their fifth record that was in the making before the split-up. Do you think that record will ever see the light of day?


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Photos by: Davide Tiso