NIKKI STRINGFIELD – “People Still Don’t Know That I Sing”

October 4, 2023, 2 months ago

By Aaron Small

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NIKKI STRINGFIELD – “People Still Don’t Know That I Sing”

“A lot of people still don’t know that I sing. I like surprising people; I wanted to try to do that with some of these songs,” begins Nikki Stringfield, promoting her debut solo album, Apocrypha, available now. Best known as one of the guitarists in all-female Iron Maiden tribute band, The Iron Maidens, Stringfield also plays with Heaven Below, alongside her husband, guitarist Patrick Kennison.

However, Nikki doesn’t sing lead vocals in either of those bands. She discusses adding the role of vocalist to her current position of six-string shredder. “I always loved singing. One thing my family always used to do was have game nights and do karaoke. But nobody was ever like, ‘Gosh, you’re a great singer.’ So, I was like, I must not be very good. So, I’ve just kind of kept it to myself. I would always sing when I was by myself. But I finally decided I want to do my original stuff. It’s hard to get a singer and then tell them what to do; especially when I have my own lyrics. So, it was like, I’m just going to do this myself. I’m going to break out of my shyness, out of my comfort zone, and just give it a shot. At least for me, to make myself happy. If people like it – cool, great. If not, at least I can say I did it for me. I started doing acoustic material over the pandemic. I had never played acoustic before, so I recently started doing a lot of acoustic shows as well. Sometimes, three hour-long solo sets, where I’m doing a lot of covers. That really helped push me as a vocalist as well. When you’re just acoustic and vocals, there’s nothing more raw than that. There’s nothing to hide behind. I feel like doing those shows really helped set me up to take the stage as a frontwoman, and really get in front of a solo band and rock!”

Nikki’s first solo release, a five-song EP titled Harmonies For The Haunted, came out in 2019. On that release, she was responsible for all vocals, guitars, and bass; Jesse Billson played drums. This time around on Apocrypha, she has a full band. In addition to Nikki singing and playing guitar, Patrick is on guitar, Jesse Davidson on bass, and Shad Wilhelm on drums. That’s a totally different approach, and experience in the recording studio. “Absolutely! This time, I did all the demos. We got into the studio first with Shad; Patrick actually recorded the bass on the album. We have Jesse stepping in to do all the live stuff, and he’s adding his own bad-ass flair to it, of course. But when we got into the studio to do drums, it was such an awesome experience because I played along with Shad, and so did Patrick on bass. It was really organic having the band together in the room. It was really awesome!”

“What I had on the demos – I had some drum loops to try and get my ideas across, but I told Shad, ‘You’re a bad-ass. Do what you do. Add your own touch.’ In some things he took a totally different direction and really just made them so much better. It was a totally different experience! I really wanted to bring in people and have them add their own stuff. Patrick played guitar on this too. He does a solo on ‘No Surrender’. He did a lot of the guitar fills, so playing this live, he’s going to be playing guitar too. Rehearsals have been going great. Going back and forth with the footwork between hitting the boost pedal for the leads, cause I’m going back and forth between singing and playing the solos and the leads. Sometimes in the choruses, I’m actually playing the lead while singing. It’s a challenge, and I’m up for it. I’m loving it!”

The title of Nikki’s new album, Apocrypha, is not a word that everyone is familiar with. It’s defined as: “A group of 14 books, not considered canonical, included in the Septuagint and the Vulgate as part of the Old Testament, but usually omitted from Protestant editions of the Bible.” Alternately, Apocrypha means: “Various religious writings of uncertain origin regarded by some as inspired but rejected by most authorities.” “That’s a mouthful,” laughs Nikki. “I love watching documentaries. I love supernatural stuff, I love history. I watch a lot of ancient alien stuff, and they were talking about Apocrypha, which like you said, is the books that were left out of the Bible. But also, it means, quite literally translated in Greek, forbidden texts. I thought that sounded cool – forbidden writings. Almost like Megadeth’s Cryptic Writings. I just liked the sound of that. Harmonies For The Haunted – I love that name, but that’s a pretty long one. So, I thought having just Apocrypha – one word – it sounds and looks cool. I’ve had people commenting like, Biblical terms, and it’s not that. But hey, it gets people talking.”

That being said, Apocrypha does not contain a title track. In fact, writing a song called “Apocrypha” was not attempted by Nikki. “I didn’t. That would be good. Actually, Patrick named his new signature Schecter guitar that he’ll be getting, The Apocrypha. He kind of jumped on my word there. That’ll be coming out next year, so we’ll also have a guitar called The Apocrypha.” Nikki’s signature Schecter guitar is proudly displayed on the Apocrypha album cover. “Absolutely, very proud of it!” It’s rather ironic that on November 3rd, New York death metal band Suffocation will release their ninth full-length album, Hymns From The Apocrypha, via Nuclear Blast. “Really? Oh my gosh. That’s hilarious, I didn’t know that. Hey, great minds. I’ll have to check theirs out too.”

The first video from Apocrypha is for the song, “Where The Demons Lie”. Nikki’s love of horror movies influenced the lyrics, the music, and the video. “Yes. We shot the video in a day. It was a nine, ten-hour shoot. It’s a performance video in a creepy, abandoned warehouse; full band. Towards the end of the shoot, it’ll be intercut with the video, the director kind of wanted to make it a song about facing your demons, literally, and beating them down. So, we brought a guy in, and it was hot! It was the hottest day of the year, of course. And there’s no air conditioning. This guy’s in a full-on cape and outfit, with his face wrapped up. It looks creepy as hell! He’s basically the demon that I’m staring down – ‘Where The Demons Lie’. It could be about somebody toxic in your life, it could be about addiction, it could be about anything. But I always bring in the horror imagery in the lyrics, and it’ll come through in the video as well. It’s going to be awesome.”

Nikki shares her pick for best, and worst, horror movie. “I’m a huge fan of the classics, Nightmare On Elm Street. But then, I love all the Saw movies as well. I go across the board. Insidious is probably one of my favorite newer movies. I just went and saw The Nun II. Poltergeist is another one of my ultimate favorites. The worst… I’ve probably tried to block them out of my memory. Back in college, I used to watch some of the B-movies that we would have to do for class. They’re so bad that they’re great. One was Plan 9 From Outer Space – it’s so bad that it’s so good.”

Returning to “Where The Demons Lie”, a little Alice In Chains influence can be heard in that song. “Oh, one of my all-time favorite bands. I’m a huge grunge person! I would dress in flannel and ripped jeans all day, all the time if I could. Patrick, too. When we recorded the vocals, I had the main vocal in mind, but Patrick really helped layering the backing vocals. He’s also a huge Alice In Chains fan, so he really helped bring that creepy Alice In Chains harmony vibe to it.”

There’s a cover song on Apocrypha, and it’s a massive song! “Kiss From A Rose” by Seal. In 1995, it was in the Batman Forever movie. The single charted at #1 in The United States and Australia, #2 in Canada. Nikki reveals why she decided to cover that tune. “It’s one of my all-time favorite songs, going back to when I was really little. I remember hearing that song in the car with my Nana. I’ve just always loved that song! It kind of has a medieval vibe. I just thought it would be really cool to rock it up a bit. And I went online, of course there’s a million covers of it, cause it’s such a huge song. I just thought, let’s keep it close to the original, but add – there’s so many vocal layers on that song too. Maybe we could do some stuff with guitar, instead of trying to change his version and make it our own. I will say it’s sounding killer in rehearsals. I’m really excited for that one. At first, I looked it up and Seal, when he wrote that song, he didn’t even like it. He didn’t put it on his first album because he wasn’t sure about it. He re-visited it later and put it on his second album. How crazy is that? And of course, it blew up! That was a song I’ve always wanted to do; I’ve always loved singing along to it.”

One of the most compelling riffs on Apocrypha is “Wasting Away”. It has a retro vibe with modern flair, you just want to turn that one up. “I think that was one of the last ones that I wrote. I wanted to put it earlier in the album; it was so hard to place these songs. I wanted a heavier hitting song. I wanted something fast, but catchy. And the vocals came for that one really easy. I wanted a song too that was kind of open with the vocal hook. Some of my favorite songs start with the vocals; this one has guitar with it too but – like ‘Last Resort’ by Papa Roach – it starts with the vocals, and they draw you in. So, I made that happen with this one. I wrote a lot of these songs, lyrically, during the pandemic. So, a lot of the songs have that coming through. A lot of uncertainty, a lot of the world is ending. Literally, I didn’t know what was going on. It was kind of at the madness peak of it all, and that came through in a lot of the lyrics for the songs.”

And what’s old is new again, specifically “As Chaos Consumes”. “That one is actually the first song that I ever released, in 2017. I re-recorded it for this album. So many people liked that song, so I decided it needs to be on CD, it needs to be on an album. So, we re-recorded it, since that was my first one and it doesn’t sound the same as the others. But I absolutely got the idea for that from watching The Walking Dead. Lyrically, it’s inspired by The Walking Dead. A post-apocalyptic, chaotic world.” But, does Nikki still follow The Walking Dead and all of its spin-offs? “Oh man, I stopped watching once they took Rick (Grimes) off. I still hear about it, my Mom still watches it. And I’m curious to watch the Daryl one, or the Maggie one with Negan. I was so vested in it… we talked about going and starting it from the very beginning and catching up. Cause I really loved it when I watched it. It started off so strong! And then there were situations where you thought, oh, this is going to be really good – and nothing would happen from it. They could have done so much more with Negan. So yeah, once Rick was gone, I was like okay, I think I’m out. They should have kept him.”

On the live front, congratulations are in order as Nikki Stringfield was chosen to open for John 5 in Las Vegas on January 28 at Count’s Vamp’d. “Thank you! I’m still a little shocked. I’m so excited. The guys in the band, we’re all thrilled! My first show was September 28. Then I have two shows in December opening for The Burning Witches in Arizona, on the 8 and 9. Getting contacted by John 5’s booking agency to ask if I wanted to open the show, I was like, who’s playing this sick joke on me? Then it was like, oh sh*t, this is legit! I’m so thankful for the opportunity to be opening for him because he’s… I need to go and sit down and practice for 36 hours straight.”

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