With ‘Splintered Minds Asylum’ - the hot off the presses album from Splintered Halo - already getting a reaction form critics that is usually reserved for the big hitters in the metal scene, it was of course the perfect moment to grab front woman Evilyn Van Der Hyden for a chat about world domination.
NHC - We live in a time where it seems everything is categorized. Genres, sub genres, sub sub genres, and Splintered Halo have had their share of others trying to fit the band into a neat little box, but how would you describe the band to someone who hasn't heard you before?
Evilyn - Personally? I'd describe what we do now as theatrical character metal.
We play whatever type of music that fits the character we've chosen to write about. All the songs are built from the ground up to tell the story of the characters, not just lyrically, but the music has to fit their personality too, it’s tailored to them, and there's a lot of voice acting in there to bring them to the fore.
The voice acting is an interesting choice of phrase as your performance of the material is akin to a vocal take on a multiple personality disorder. You appear to be able to slip easily into character roles, but how difficult is that to do?
Haha, yes, I suppose it is like a vocal take on multiple personality disorder. In Duality of Personality (a song about Jekyll and Hyde) I play a character who is suffering from this exact disorder. I find it easy to slip in and out of my character roles.
When I write a song I research the character, study them. By the time it comes to performing I have a clear idea about who each character is, how they sound and how I want to portray them.
As a fan of both the horror genre and comic books/graphic novels, you most certainly bring these influences to the fore in your music and even visually.
Would you consider that there is a strong foundation for there to be a potential to cross over into those markets? Splintered Halo graphic novels, books, webisodes etc?
Definitely, and if I had more time this year we would have been moving forward with that.
I've dabbled in creating our own comic book already!
It's something that we've actually talked about for 2017, but for this year we had to stay focused on getting this album completed.
That took all our creative energy. The music is the most important thing for us just now.
Coincidently we are going to be playing at the Capital Sci Fi Con charity aftershow in February.
This would be the start of us dipping our toes in the comic book market.
Exploring all of these options is a part of the over all plans we have.
It does seem to be a natural progression.
It does however cost money to birth the projects into the world, and as you are currently self financing how is the future looking for you?
I guess I'm asking about the age old artist v commerce question.
You already set the quality bar high, and fans are used to you all delivering releases of material that can compete with bigger acts.
So if you do branch out then how are you going to bankroll it all?
You're right, they say the best things in life are free, but that really isn't true; music is a very expensive business when you're self funding.
There’s the instruments, travelling to gigs, rehearsing, recording; all of it costs.
We've all had to make sacrifices to fund this band but I can honestly say it's been worth it.
You have to speculate to accumulate, and if the quality is lacking, it can come off as amateur.
When I write a song I put everything I have into making it as perfect as possible; it would be unthinkable to them sacrifice the quality when it comes to production, we work too hard on this to do that.
And branching out would be much the same. If a project is worth doing, it's worth doing well.
We'd have to put the band first financially which is what we already do. It helps that we can do a lot of the stuff that would normally cost money by ourselves.
I've done all the artwork and design on the album so that cut costs a bit. We'd do the same for any other projects.
This brings us back to the album. On listening to it I would challenge anyone to name a band with a successful track record, a label backing them, and a global fan base supporting them, that is offering anything better.
And when I consider that you have all created this with a fraction of the resources they have then it is all the more impressive.
What is it that is at the root of this? Do you all insist on pushing yourselves hard? Is the mindthink 100% always, or what is the point?
Wow, that's really kind of you to say! I'm so glad the fact that we care so much comes across in those songs. We're all very committed to this band, we love it.
I honestly spend almost every bit of free time I have doing something for the band, whether it be writing music, or lyrics, or doing artwork, gigging, promoting.
Maybe it's a bad thing, but music is my whole life, this band is everything to me, so yes, I give it 100%. Admittedly, I'm a bit of a perfectionist, so I obsess until I feel like I've gotten it completely right. If that means cutting out sleep, so be it!
How long was the process of the album from initial ideas to completion? It's very obviously not a six month project.
It actually was written and recorded in about 6 months believe it or not! When we booked the studio time in March we only had 4 of the songs written at that point, and I hadn't even picked out the characters yet!
I knew that I wanted to become each character, and wanted to explore insanity as a theme but that was literally all we had.
Once we booked the time I worked flat out to get the songs written, and we all worked incredibly hard to be recording ready. I completed I Bathe in Blood and Duality of Personality one week before we were due to record it, that's how tight time was. It was tough because we've gigged this year more than any other and we didn't take any time out from that.
We were adamant that we wanted this album out this year though, and working to those self imposed deadlines was, while stressful, ultimately worth it.
That is really quite incredible then. Have you now set out a period of strict promotion for it?
Yeah, we have goals and to do lists. We know what things we want to do and by when. We want to keep the momentum we've built going as much as we possibly can. To be honest though, I'm really looking forward to having a bit of time again so that I can write new songs!
Once the tracks were recorded I focused on the (many) other things that needed done to get this album out so I've really missed just sitting with my guitar and writing. It's my favourite part of the whole process.
So will we be seeing new material sooner rather than later?
Oh yes! I have a list of characters that I want to do next! It's been frustrating not having enough time to sit and get them out on guitar!
Would a whole concept album be something that could be considered?
To return to the crossover theme that could be something that could be a springboard into many more niches. A multi-faceted release, but if it was to be approached then what would you be more comfortable with, an original concept, or an extension of a story featuring known characters?
Some people are calling this a concept album because of the whole Asylum theme, but I don't know if it is or not.
For the next album, I already know the theme into which the characters will fit.
I have a couple of songs on this current album telling the story of original characters I've created, Rise is one, but I much prefer doing well known characters purely because it challenges me more.
I have to make that sure I represent them musically, lyrically and vocally as accurately as possible, or I'm setting myself up to get slated.
It forces me to up my game because I don't want to mess up a character that people love, one that I love. I want to do them justice. I spent three full days locked in my room when I was writing Diabolus, I rejected so so many riffs.
They were good enough riffs, but they weren't quite sinister enough for to tell the story of Regan.
With original characters, there isn't that sort of pressure there; no one knows what they should sound like.
I make it sound like no pressure is a bad thing haha! I guess it is to me.
So if it is known characters then tell us two that you would like to approach?
We've started work on a Freddy Krueger song already actually but its early days, Nancy and Freddy would feature in that.
I also want to do Hansel and Gretl, I love that fairytale more than any other. It's so easy to make it dark too! My list grows every day though.
It's clear that you are driven to artistically express yourself, and with that where is Splintered Halo going? In your wildest dreams what would the band be?
I sometimes get frustrated that there aren't more hours in the day for me to put more out there from a creative perspective!
What I want more than anything is to be able to just write, record and gig all the time. I want Splintered Halo to be big enough to fund us to go all over the world and play every night.
This will sound like a cliché and possibly a bit fake, but it's true; I don't care about the money.
None of us do. If someone was to come along and say "I'll pay you to go on tour and record and make records, you'll have food, somewhere to sleep, just enough to cover bills, but that's all you'll get" then I'd be happy.
As long as they have no say in that creative output though? Sort of an unconditional financial love deal?
Or would you maybe compromise?
Tough question. I wouldn't want to do it if it meant putting out music I wasn't happy with. I don't mind creative input from an external source as long as I could see that the suggestion/idea was for the greater good of the song or album.
That creatively it was the right thing to do. I feel that, with this album, I've finally found what I'm meant to be doing musically, something that challenges me and keeps me interested, and something that is at least trying to be different. I wouldn't want to lose that.
Big thanks to Evilyn for the chat! Check out the band on Facebook, or grab yourself a ticket to the upcoming gig we have them on, supporting the excellent Eric13!