1.Give us a little background on MERLIN
My husband Alex and I started MERLIN in early 1992, and a few months later we released our first demo in death-thrash style. In fall we released the second death grind one. But the most well-known became our third demo tape called PRISONER OF DEATH which appeared pretty successful. Some of those songs such as DIE and BLACK REVENGE you can hear on DEATHKOTEQUE- our first full-length album (1997). What had we been doing for 4 years? We played shows around Moscow and the area. Besides the guys (Alex and Nick) played for one hard-rock band. And we worked on a new program, we wanted to release a real good album and we did it finally! DEATHKOTEQUE appeared very fast and extreme, a kinda bomb! After that we were called Death Metal Kings of Russia. That time we played three: Alex Ioffe (guitar), Nick (Energizer) Byckoff (drums) and me- Mary Abaza (vocal, bass). In 1998 we got a second guitarist Arteom (Bolt) Nazarov and the band’s sound became still more brutal. After DEATHKOTEQUE we were suggested to release our next album via GWN Records, Canada. So THEY MUST DIE album was released there in early 2001. Later our DEATHKOTEQUE was re-issued too by their division GRIND IT! Records.
2.Are you fascinated with the Arthurian tales? Or is there a deeper significance behind choosing the name MERLIN for the band?
First of all we wanted the name to be simple and easily remembered starting the band and MERLIN suited the request. Then we chose MERLIN as a symbol of magic power and majesty. Besides MERLIN is a predatory bird that tears meat by its claws, it’s beak in blood, ya know, and this absolutely reflects our band’s personality.
3.What inspired the beginning of MERLIN? And who are it’s members?
As I explained Alex and I founded the band in early 1992. Before MERLIN we both worked for a pair of thrash metal bands but it was pretty boring, we wanted to play something more hard and interesting. Well, we changed a few drummers before Nick and searched for a bassist pretty long. Finally I decided to try the bass myself since had had some experience of guitar playing. And finally in 1998 we met Arteom (ex-Anal Puss). So before July 13 we’ve played four until we lost Nick in a car accident… Such a terrible tragedy!!!
4. Is there much of death metal scene in Russia?
I can't say death metal is very popular in Russia. What's on TV and radio is pop music and other shit of all kinds. All metal scene is underground around here. But there are very good bands playing extreme music almost in every town, tons of good bands ya know, and all of them have their audience. There are plenty of places for rehearsals, recording studios, etc., the equipment is good. As for shows most of clubs fear of metallers… there are only few clubs in Moscow where extreme music is welcome and in other towns we often have to play in cinemas, circuses and even schools for the same reason. But it’s not a problem. What I hate is that it’s impossible to live from music here. All Russian musicians have to work somewhere. Many leave music because don't see any prospect. Otherwise there are very little of posers in Russian metal scene, they have to look for some more profitable business…
5.You’ve been around since 1992 and I’m surprised you haven’t gotten more coverage. Do you think the internet has changed that for you?
Sure! We got tons of friends via net, gave thousands of interviews… A lot of people can hear our MP3’s, see the pics, there are lots of them on our site: http://geocities.com/zloy.geo/ Finally we met Remi Cote of GWN Records, Canada via internet.
6.You recently lost your drummer in accident. Would you like to write a few short words of tribute here for him?
What can I say? We suffered an irreplaceable deprivation… We played with Nick from the very beginning and he became like a brother for us. He was a brilliant drummer, his enormous technique amazed not only the audience but the musicians too, he was out of any competition… It was Nick who imposed on the band that extremely powerful sound which distinguished it all these years, owning to his incredible mastership we achieved those impossible speeds which drove crazy our fans… RIP MASTER!!! You reserved an indelible vestige in music, Your memory will stay in our hearts forever!
And are you currently looking into a drummer or taking a break?
Of course we’ll find a new drummer, we can’t live without scene… But at first we must finish BRUTAL CONSTRUCTOR album, Nick did record all drums and we’ll do our best, it’s our duty before him… Sure, our fans will enjoy it!
7.What bands would you say influence your brutal death metal style? And what were the first band you got into?
I grew up listening to BLACK SABBATH and they still are my favorite band, I think they are the parents of death metal at all. And I’m crazy about Chuck Schuldiner both as a composer and vocalist, we even added to the new album “Zombie Ritual” by DEATH as a tribute to him.
8.You have two releases so far. Please tell us a little about each.
I think "Deathkoteque" was a piece of real good work. The 10 songs on it were the most interesting songs that we had created for the five years that has passed before the recording took place. That is also the reason that the album is not as conceptual as the second one. "The Must Die" is a more genuine Merlin album, while the first one is more our musical search to find our own musical style. The second release is also more technical and melodic. Plus, I experimented a lot more with the vocals on "They Must Die". You know, a little of black metal that wasn't there before. The same goes for the music also; we included some black metal elements and the sound became more intense.
And what inspires your lyrics?
All I need for writing lyrics is watching TV or reading a paper, especially criminal news. Look what’s going on around! Kids shoot down their classmates. Terrorism blossoms out day by day. Maniacs flood all world. And religious extremism? What I hate are religious fanatics of all kinds which have flooded our country after the communist had failed. It’s a real problem and not only Russian! Thousands die in hospitals because their religion prohibits blood transfusion. Millions sell all they got and leave their families for some idiotic communes. I wrote the song “Entering The Gates Of Paradise” after a real tragedy when three girls jumped down from 8 floors. They dissented to some totalitarian sect and it was a ritual suicide.
I think the lyrics are an important part of a song but the music is the main part. You can write really cool lyrics and a boring music and nobody will listen to you. So I always write lyrics when the song is ready. I want the text to correspond to the music, sometimes it takes a few months to find the suitable theme.
9.You’re working on your latest release. Do you have a title for it yet?
10.You played a show with SINISTER. Now that’s a show we’d like to see here in US. Brutal women on stage together doing an ultimate show. Did you have fun doing that show and when you met Rachel from Sinister what impression did she leave you with?
The show was great! There are a lot of fans of old SINISTER and they wondered if Rachel was as good as there previous vocalist. And they were not disappointed… Rachel got a low growl sounding like males, at the same time she looked like woman… and a lovely woman! Maybe she should have been a bit more aggressive to my mind, but anyway she got balls! We talked almost for an hour, took some pics together (you can see ‘em on our site). Don’t know why, but she didn’t want to sing jam with me, seemed it would have been cool. Anyway I found her very nice girl…
11. Some guys think that girls use some form of device to alter their vocals. What would you like to say to these guys?
I think some guys do this too. It’s the usual thing in death metal when a free singer squeezes the mic in his hands, a kinda megaphone which makes the voice lower and louder. As for me I can’t do that because the hands are busy. At all I don’t need any techniques since suppose my growl to be self-sufficient.
12. What other women in the metal scene would you consider admirable?
I like female voices sounding as powerful as males and the timbre must correspond to the style of the band. For example I think Sandra Nasic from GUANO APES has got an ideal timbre for their style. Sabina Classen is good for thrash…
13. Did you take bass lesson or is it self-taught? What made you decided that the bass was the instrument for you? Do you play any other instruments?
I love that low bass guitar sound from the childhood but never considered playing it myself. It was a necessity that I had to try it and I didn’t take lessons. What I was trained was vocal, I studied in jazz-school. But playing the bass was self-taught. As I told I played a little rhythm-guitar especially for creating music, also I used to play piano being a kid.
14. Women in the metal scene are a lot more visible in the scene now. Do you see any difference in the music scene as compared to when you began?
Yes, in 1992 I was a unique front lady on death metal scene… the most brutal vocalist was Sabbina of HOLY MOSES that time. But I would like to see still more female-singers, especially good singers, most of them unfortunately look pretty miserable, ya know…
15. Why do you feel that some female musicians disappear from the metal scene after a while?
Not only female, most of underground musicians quit music growing over 25-30. As for women the reason is very simple: they get married, have children and don’t have any time…
16. Does MERLIN have any merchandise for the readers?
You can buy some via GWN Records: www.gwnrecords.com.
17. Any last words?
At first thanks a lot for this interview. And to your readers: I’d like them to discover Russian extreme music. Listen to MERLIN guys and keep it fucking brutal!!!