METAL PULP AND PAPER: Hello everyone, we have Martyna Halas-Yeates, better known as, M-Noise, who’s from the cyber tech metal band Ascend The Hollow that hails from Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands. So, thank you, Martyna, for taking the time to speak with us here at Metal Pulp And Paper. We appreciate it.
MARTYNA HALAS-YEATES: My pleasure!
MPAP: M-Noise, Hallo, hoe gaat hrt met je? Pardon my grammar, hopefully; this is correct?
MARTYNA: Het gaat goed, dank je! Here’s a little secret… I am not actually Dutch… so my grammar is far from perfect.
MPAP: Before we talk about your new release, Echoes Of Existence, that’s due out June 7th worldwide through Dr. Music Records, let’s first introduce you and your band to everyone. Tell us what we need to know about ATH and something about your music that’s going to grab and pummel our eardrums?
MARTYNA: ATH defies genres but remains heavy as hell, heavenly melodic and darkly futuresque. To create our sound, we use down tuned 9-string guitars, 6-string bass and contrasting vocal styles; from growls through screams to a clean, delicate singing voice. Basically whatever my chords allow me to do! All this is powered by modern electronic soundscapes and explosive blasts.
MPAP: Now, let’s move forward and talk about your new release. It’s said that Echoes Of Existence will cause a storm in the music scene and is an exploration through the dark sides of humanity in a world that’s dominated by technology and progress. Please tell us a bit more about this release and what it means to you and what we can expect to see, feel, and hear?
MARTYNA: Lyrically, the album largely deals with mental health issues as it’s becoming the plague of our times. The more technologically dependent we become, the more lonely and isolated we seem to get. We are addicted to our phones, constantly share our lives with the world but forget to actually live in the moment. Add to that the pressure to live fast, achieve success the moment we graduate, get a 'real' job being a modern slave to a blue-chip company… No wonder so many people are simply unable to cope. Ironically, we disconnect from each other and from values that actually matter to us, and while the 'crazy' label associated with mental illness has loosened up a bit, we still perceive this vulnerability as a sign of weakness. Some other topics I explore on this album are perhaps a little triggering, rape, child abuse; others are simply my reflection on recent political and social world events, which in my opinion paint our future in rather dark colours. This overwhelming feeling of impending darkness is quite prominent musically too, as we are going for an ultra-heavy sound contrasted with haunting, melancholic melodies, set within an almost robotic, cybernetic techy vibe. In a way, Echoes Of Existence paints a not-so-happy scenario where all that makes us human becomes our demise and all that’s left are creatures that are unable to feel any emotions whatsoever.
MPAP: The Opening song, "Polaris Calling," sets the tone to the album right away and sinks it’s hooks in and doesn’t let go until the final song "C3lls," just under an hour later. Let’s talk about some of the other songs. "Polaris Calling" is a biblical and cosmic portrayal of both spectrums of bipolar disorder. Very interesting, take us inside your mind for a moment and tell us more about this song?
MARTYNA: When I work on lyrics, I am very much inspired by the melodies, riffs and the general feeling of the song. It works for me like a mind map: a certain instrumental passage could make me think of an image, a word or sometimes even an entire phrase. In this case, the song reminded me of the cosmos, outer space, stars, but also something epic and ancient like a seraph, which is the main focal point of the song. I always like to research any theme I decide to write about to fire up my inspiration, and in this case, I found a way to connect all those contrasting themes into one large metaphor of the manic and depressive sides of the bipolar disorder. I was diagnosed with it a few years ago so writing about something so difficult helped me own it, try to understand it, look at it objectively from a distance, rather than be a victim of it. It was very therapeutic in a way. "Prisoners Of The Storm" deals with the struggle of depression and its debilitating effects. Our minds can be our worst enemy and our most effective prison. There are also addictions; whether it’s alcohol or drugs.
MPAP: Depression, drugs, and alcohol are slowly taking away musicians left and right, has depression or any addictions ever been a problem of yours?
MARTYNA: Mental illnesses often go hand in hand with addictions and substance abuse. It is heartbreaking to see so many talented musicians, actors and artists lose their battle with addiction or commit suicide. I think creative and artistic people in general are more likely to suffer from depression as by trade they have heightened sensitivity towards the world. As creators, we pour our heart and souls into our work which is always subject to criticism, and in this day and age, there is also so much hate and negativity that can come at you through social media. Being bipolar, depression is something that can hit me pretty hard indeed. 'Prisoners…' was my way of trying to rationalize my experience. Trying to convince myself that it’s just me, just my mind playing tricks again. Everyone who struggles knows how incredibly hard it is to look past the general hopelessness of everything and reaching out for help is a near impossibility. I was hoping this song would become an anthem for us all, and a reminder to check on that friend who has been quiet or absent for a while...
MPAP: Your song "Sea Of Crises" is about a cultural belief in the mystical powers of the full moon in which it can induce erratic behaviors, psychiatric hospital admissions, suicides, homicides, injuries, traffic accidents and all manner of strange events. Is this a subject you find very interesting?
MARTYNA: The myths and spiritual beliefs surrounding the moon’s presence are very fascinating indeed. This song is really about politics though. If you read the lyrics closely enough, you will notice some reference to building walls and also a certain someone with a slight tangerine hint to his face… See if you can spot him in our next video. I find it deeply upsetting that the most powerful leader of the world is so foolish to dismiss scientific evidence for global warming, wants to divide instead of unite, and the logic to his arguments is, well, as good as blaming the moon for some kind of crisis. As I was writing the lyrics, I came across an article about lunar seas - the Sea of Tranquility and the Sea of Crises, which is where the title comes from. I thought it was a great metaphor for either creating peace or creating conflict - and how the two have their influence on Earth via the moon’s 'magical' powers. It’s much easier to blame something supernatural for the current state of the world, rather than take responsibility into our own hands.
MPAP: Jon Howard, frontman for the melodic metal band Threat Signal, but more currently Vice Versa, guest vocals on this song as well. What was it like collaborating with him?
MARTYNA: Jon was very professional, quick and super easy to work with. I was very curious how he would approach the melody of the chorus, especially with our voices being so different, but he surely did not disappoint! His powerful vocals really lift the song and give it extra dimension. Hope to meet Jon in person one day.
MPAP: Another song, "Vessels," is inspired by the Irish abortion rights debate which led to the referendum in May 2018 and a resounding victory of pro-choice activists. Alabama in the United States recently passed a bill that bans all abortions, even when it’s a case of rape or incest, and the woman may be subject to a death penalty if she gets one. What are your thoughts on this?
MARTYNA: I am absolutely appalled by this and I cannot believe it’s happening in a so called first world country, in 2019! It’s like The Handmaid’s Tale becoming reality. This goes beyond controlling women’s bodies; this a violation of human rights, plain and simple. One absolutely cannot force an unwanted pregnancy on another human being. And how 'pro-life' is the death penalty exactly? Will the rapist receive death penalty too? And are there any steps taken to reduce underage pregnancies, such as free contraception, sex education... Oh, I guess not because hypocrisy knows no boundaries. Not to mention homeless kids, children who cannot get adopted because they are too old or too sick, terrible foster conditions in abusive homes. But once they’re out of the womb, I guess that’s it, nobody cares anymore. I could go on and on and I’m sure you can tell I’m a bit passionate about this topic... When living in Ireland, I was actively helping raise donations and canvassing for votes, which is how "Vessels" came into existence. I am very sorry for the women of Alabama and those who could become pregnant in Alabama - please do not give up, keep on educating others. In Ireland, we had an excellent page called In Her Shoes which was a collection of stories, told by real people, about how the lack of access to local, free, safe and legal abortion affected them. I found that this was what helped us reach the undecided voters, as ultimately, I believe people are good, and they do feel empathy. Most people can understand that life comes with a whole array or shades, not just black and white. We are all unique and we all have our unique experiences and circumstances. It’s just the language of fear and hateful lies repeated by the anti-choicers that scare them into a dark corner. Who wants to be called a baby killer, right? So do not give up, get out in the streets, continue to have this conversation. If a deeply religious country like Ireland can evolve, so can you.
MPAP: Echoes Of Existence is packed with so much already; it’s hard to believe that there is still is so much more for us to listen to and explore. Tell us about some of the other songs like "Into The Black Eye," "Mother Of Morality," "Swarms Within," and then, "Repent, Rewind, Reset"? What else can the listener expect? I mean, what we’ve talked about already can knock someone out like Mike Tyson to the floor. Echoes Of Existence definitely packs a one, two, knockout punch.
MARTYNA: Thank you. "Into The Black Eye" is a song in my native Polish and one of the two more experimental songs on the album, "C3lls" being the other one. We really let our creativity run free on those ones and I’m very excited about them. "Into The Black Eye" is mostly keys driven, with some heavy, trance-like riffs, almost like a dystopian movie soundtrack. It is a prelude to "This Dark Rage," which is part of a little concept triad alongside "Mother Of Morality" and "Repent, Rewind, Reset". These songs are a bit more proggy in structure and the lyrics are loosely based on the American teenage killer, Miranda Barbour. Her story really fascinated me as she claimed to only kill rapists and child abusers. She was even nicknamed 'the female Dexter' after a series I was binging on heavily at the time. One can doubt whether she really had a 'moral code', but the fact is she went through some horrible trauma as a child. Reading about her background and all that she went through made me think about morality and what we perceive as justice. On one side we have undeniable crime; she committed murder which is wrong, on the other side though, she is a deeply damaged individual who the so called system failed to protect. I think it is a very interesting dilemma: given the root cause, was punishing her the right thing to do? Isn’t there more we can and should do for kids like her as a society?
MPAP: What makes ATH stand out from the other bands, especially in your home country?
MARTYNA: It is hard to know what our 'home country' actually is, given that each of us is of different nationalities; Polish, Czech, Irish and Welsh, and we now live in Ireland, Germany and The Netherlands, just to make things a bit more challenging. Perhaps this is what makes us unique, each country’s music scene is a bit different, so we all bring something else to the table, making our sound fresh and hard to categorize. I would say we definitely appeal to those who are not afraid of metal bands venturing into a more modern, synth-based territory.
MPAP: For your fans, let’s peel back your layers even further before we bring this interview to a close. When did you realize music was your path in life and you needed to be behind the microphone?
MARTYNA: I have always wanted to be a singer, ever since I learned to speak. I probably 'inherited' that desire from my dad who was a heavy metal singer back in the day!
MPAP: Was the death metal genre your first choice of the style of singing you wanted to do?
MARTYNA: My early works are actually not even metal. I like many genres so I’ve always been open to interesting collaborations, especially during Myspace days, hands up who still remembers it? My roots are in choral music which is how I learned my basics as a singer. My first few bands were what I would describe as experimental / alternative rock, and I’ve also done some electronica and synth pop for a while. I always wanted to join a metal band, but I could never find the right people until I arrived in Ireland where I met the guys - and the rest, as they say, is history.
MPAP: We’ve already talked about religion, abortion, and even addiction, and this can be a touchy subject as well, being labeled as a female fronted band. Are you ok with that? Some other bands don’t like that to be the main focus.
MARTYNA: 'Female-fronted' is a love/hate term for me. I believe music should be judged by its quality merits - who cares whether it’s male or female fronted as long as it touches you and you feel it’s good? That being said, I do understand some people simply like the uniqueness a female voice can bring to metal music, especially us female grunters who are able to access a whole array of contrasting sounds. I do appreciate the fact that some of our fans found us through the 'female-fronted' tag, and a lot of them are huge supporters of women in music. Let’s not forget though that ATH is not just me, ATH is also three awesome guys without whom I could never make this music on my own. ATH is a joint effort and therefore a mighty multi-gendered beast.
MPAP: Was it ever discouraging at first, wanting to pursue your dream in a very male-dominated genre?
MARTYNA: Yes, sadly it was a rocky road for me. I couldn’t find a band for instance, because many guys thought having a girl in a band was lame. Another time I was fired from a band because they preferred a male singer. Other times I was told I should give up doing extreme vocals because I will never 'sound like a man'.
MPAP: Female fronted bands are becoming more and more dominant now, who are some of the ones that you have looked up to, and who are some of the upcoming bands that we should put our radars on and check out?
MARTYNA: Growing up I was hugely inspired by atmospheric / experimental metal bands like The Gathering, The Third And The Mortal and Atrox (Monika Edvardsen times) and also some goth classics like Siouxsie And The Banshees or X-Mal Deutschland. As far as extreme vocals go, it was probably Arch Enemy and their Wages Of Sin album that made me think of growls as a vocal technique that is accessible to women. Jinjer is of course super-hot right now and need no introduction. I also love bands like The Agonist, Once Human or Myrkur who all mix extreme vocals with impressive cleans. One that is less known, but no doubt will grow in popularity is Mask Of Judas from the UK.
MPAP: Before we bring this interview to a close, let’s finish with this, tell us what this means to you that’s written by Pablo Neruda; 'Only a burning patience will lead to the attainment of splendid happiness'?
MARTYNA: This is a quote from a poem "Die Slowly" by Pablo Neruda. It reminds me to never let go of my dreams, never become a slave to habit, and keep working hard to achieve what I truly believe in. It’s a great poem that we should all read and re-read once in a while. We all have our own definition of 'success'. To me it’s being able to make music, to others it’s having a family or owning a business… whatever it is: be true to yourself and keep to your goal.
MPAP: On behalf of myself and Metal Pulp and Paper, I’d like to thank you, Martyna, for doing this interview. We look forward to what Ascend The Hollow does finishing out 2019 and beyond.
MARTYNA: Thank you, we really appreciate it!
MPAP: Will you be able to tour the United States anytime soon?
MARTYNA: We would love to! We don’t have any concrete dates as yet, but hopefully we will be able to do it very soon.
MPAP: Any last words for all the readers and your worldwide fans out there?