SCARLET SINS - Family Values

March 9, 2008, 10 years ago

Special report by Carl Begai

scarlet sins feature

Ray “Black Metal” Wallace was no dummy. A beloved personality on the Toronto metal scene for what seems like forever, he not only rubbed elbows with but devoted his time, energy, and in some cases his parents’ basement to Canadian metal acts such as Razor, Anvil and Sacrifice before any of them had been crowned “legendary”. He heard and saw something special in those bands, helping any way he could to bring them what he believed was well deserved exposure. Well over a year prior to his tragic death in November 2007 following a cerebral aneurysm Wallace had taken up the torch for the all-female quartet Scarlet Sins, pushing them with a similar passion, and the buzz began in earnest. The band became a fixture in clubs around Ontario and Quebec, eventually going on to record a hard hitting self-titled debut with the producer of a little band called Rush and releasing it independently in September 2007. Since then the buzz has continued to grow, to the point where Scarlet Sins are not merely ready for but worthy of international attention.

“Every so often I’ll Google ‘Scarlet Sins’ to see what people are writing about us, and since January things have really started to take off in terms of the buzz,” says guitarist/co-founder Cristina Bishop. “We’ve been so busy because we do everything ourselves and there’s so much of it that we decided to hire a publicist. It was a good move because it took a lot of pressure off us. We’re still shopping the debut and we’ve only really been doing that heavily for the last couple months because we wanted to have some shows under out belt with Elie (Bertrand/drums) before we had labels coming out to see us. It’ll be a while until the next album comes out but we’re already starting to write songs for it. The debut sounds great and I believe in it, so we definitely want to push it further and get it out on a label.”

That push includes extensive touring outside their usual Ontario and Quebec haunts over the coming year.

“We’re booking our spring/summer tour for Ontario and Quebec right now,” Bishop reveals. “The plan is to make some money so that we can venture into the States. We have to get working visas and they’re not cheap. We have different mailing lists and messageboards where people sign up and tell us where they’re from. We recently finished an analysis of the US and the top three states where we have fans are, in order, Texas, California and Michigan. When we found out Texas and California were one and two we said ‘Let’s go now!’ because it’s so fucking cold here right now (laughs). But seriously, the plan is to get down there in 2008.”

Having lived with the debut for a while now, is the band still satisfied with the end result or have they drawn up a list of things they wish they could change?

“Totally satisfied. I love our debut and I don’t regret anything we did on it. It’s better than I expected it to be and Rich (Chycki/producer) made that dream come true. I definitely want to work with him again and I think the other girls agree because he’s amazing. I just can’t imagine working with anybody else. I’m already looking forward to the next one because I’m a better guitarist than I was when I recorded the debut. The next album is definitely going to have more solos (laughs).”

Which raises the issue yet again as to where Scarlet Sins belong amongst metal’s finest, or if they can be considered metal at all. All four band members are fans of guitar and groove driven mayhem, getting off on classic Van Halen to Steve Vai to Tool depending on which lady you talk to, so their foundation can’t be called into question. Their trademark Alice In Chains meets Black Sabbath delivery should likewise put them in many a rivet-head’s good graces.

“I think I’m the only person that isn’t quite sure what to call our style of music,” Bishop laughs. “It seems that all the non-metal people call us metal and all the really hard-core metal fans think of us as hard rock. I’m kind of torn because I love metal and I’ve always known it to be a genre of music that has a lot of virtuosity and amazing, talented players. So, when I compare the complexity of albums that I like to our album I would say we’re progressive on the rock side, but I don’t know that I’d call it metal. I’d call it Part Metal (laughs). I can’t fit our CD into any genre. I think the problem with metal is that the fans love it so much that they’re afraid of it changing. Maybe we’re a new type of metal band. I’d love to sit down with Sam Dunn (director of Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey) and ask him where Scarlet Sins would fit in on his charts of metal categories (laughs).”

Bishop blames Vai’s ‘The Audience Is Listening’ for her gradual descent into heavy metal hell. Listening to her talk about her other influences, the next Scarlet Sins record promises to put an end to the whole “metal or not?” debate.

“I have a lot of influences, like Metallica, and lately I’ve been getting into a lot of Lamb Of God and Trivium, so I’m really interested and excited to see how the next album is going to turn out. I definitely want to go in a heavier direction. I like the way Trivium has a lot of poppiness and hooks in their choruses. At the same time I like Lamb Of God’s straight ahead aggressive riffs, so who knows where we’re going to end up. I’ve been taking guitar lessons because I decided that I need to become a shred goddess (laughs). I need to play like my idols, Yngwie (Malmsteen) and Zakk (Wylde). I’ve always been into melody because of my classical music background, but you can still have melody and play fast, which is why I like Yngwie. Some shredders bore me to death and I don’t want to name names, but Yngwie’s been able to accomplish shredding with lots of melody.”
“That’s one of the things I’ve changed live,” Bishop adds. “I’ve been improvising a lot more over parts that I would normally play straight rhythm. I’ve been studying with Bruce Dies – I think Rich hired him to play in (his former band) Winter Rose at one point – so he’s become my shredmaster (laughs).”

The Scarlet Sins sound has also continued to evolve with the addition of Bertrand, who joined the band following the recording of the debut. Toronto-based skinbasher John Pacheco laid down the drum tracks in the studio.

“Elie has been able to learn all the parts and then add her own style to them,” says Bishop, “which is really good because our band has always been about expressing yourself. I think that’s why Scarlet Sins sounds so unique. Yeah, I’m one of the main songwriters and I come up with guitar parts, but everyone else comes up with their own parts. I think that helps give the songs a different vibe live.”

So would bringing in a second guitarist to fatten up the band's live sound. Or not…

“I don’t think we’ll ever add another member,” Bishop says, “but if we have the money I’d rather hire a guitarist to play the rhythm tracks live. The thing is, group dynamics are so important and our family is perfect the way it is. Each person affects the group and I don’t think we want to add a fifth member at this point. We’re happy keeping things in the family.”

There’s no doubt about it; Ray would be proud.

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