I was recently asked to do an interview for the russian website Metal Gossip.
This interview can now be found on their website (in Russian of course) at metalgossip.ru
For those that don't speak Russian, here is the interview in English!
“I love fusing together different styles, different instruments from all over the world”.
Alexandra Martin is a talented singer and composer from foggy Albion. This lady is a pretty promising and versatile creative singer and deserves to be widely known to music admirers.
MG: Unfortunately, most music fans in Russia don’t know much about Alexandra Martin. So… can you introduce yourself to a Russian audience? Do you have musical education? How did you discover your talent for singing?
A big hello to everyone! Well, my name is Alexandra Martin and I am a singer and composer from London, England. Many people know me as the singer from a band I was in called Adastreia. We were in the metal genre and I was with them for approximately 4 and a half years. It was a wonderful experience but in the end I felt my time with the band had played out. I had a desire to explore other musical paths so we said our goodbyes!
As for my musical background, I started playing the piano by ear and composing small pieces at the age of 5. At around 9 or so I started to take piano lessons and enter into young composer of the year competitions. Really, as a child my dream was to become a concert pianist taking inspiration from composers like Chopin and Lizst. I would fantasise about being able to play that way (I still do!) As I grew older and discovered a love for the metal genre I decided that I wanted to become a keyboardist in a black metal band!
After school, I went on to do a diploma in contemporary music, where I studied piano, composition and other elements of the music industry. All this time, I did sing but hadn't really embraced my voice at all, piano was my ‘first’ instrument. It wasn't until somebody handed me a mix tape (around 12 years ago) featuring the band Therion, that I discovered a real interest in singing, more specifically, classical singing. I started listening to the album 'Secret of the Runes' by Therion and was really taken with the richness, power and clarity of some of the singers. It was from this point on I really started to think 'more' about singing. Slowly my ambitions of being a keyboardist in a band were changing direction to singing.
I teamed up with a good friend of mine named Del Gentilini and we started writing together. I'd never had any singing lessons and I had a lot to learn but we had a musical connection, so I had decided to get some classical voice training. It was at this time we formed Adastreia.
I suppose this was when I found my voice! I studied with my teacher for about 7 years until she retired. Also, I have done some other classical singing workshops and a summer school at The Royal Academy of Music.
Now in my 30's my voice continues to grow and develop and I love to explore new vocal possibilities.
MG: Is music your main profession? If not, what’s your occupation that helps you earn money?
Unfortunately no, not yet anyway but it is my main passion! I work as a front of house representative for a talent and literary agency in London. But I do this part time to allow me the extra time to work on music. Working full time truly sucked out all of my creative juices, so to speak, and recently moving to part time has helped immensely with embracing the creativity. I hope that eventually music will take over and I'll be doing that full time.
MG: Alexandra, please tell us about your plans for the future; in what direction are you going to move in your music? What genres are you going to work in?
As you can probably tell by my latest releases, Burden of Hope, The Journey Home and my own rendition of Soldier Side, my style is far removed from Adastreia. I am really drawn to genres such as Classical, Ethereal, Ambient, Folk, World and Middle Eastern. In particular, I just love percussive instruments and how rich they sound when played together. I feel that there is something so ‘human’ about it. It sounds so organic and colourful. So alive!
Much of my teen years and 20's was spent listening to bands such as Dead Can Dance and Enigma and a lot of classical music. It would take me away to a better place. For me it was music that opened up a portal to another world and I would just fly away. It opened up my mind to different musical possibilities and musical styles from around the world. The sounds and atmospheres really resonated with me and they have really contributed to my musical inspirations. Now I put my emotions and influences into music and tell stories of my own.
I love fusing together different styles, different instruments from all over the world. I want to take people on an interesting journey as well as offering something simple when the story and emotion calls for it to be. So, with respect to what you can hear from me, it will definitely be around those styles and influences with a dark and atmospheric vibe. I'm also a very big fan of progressive psytrance and some other electronic music. Bands like Infected Mushroom and Shpongle. I am also a big fan of metal, especially progressive. So you could also expect to hear elements of those styles weaving into my composing too!
My music has been described as filmic and cinematic, that is also an area I have considered doing some work in, as well as the games industry. Who knows what the future will bring?
MG: Do you have plans to release a solo album? When will it happen?
Yes. I am most definitely going to release an album and I am going to start working on it very soon. I have a few pieces that I want to tie up first and hopefully before the end of the year is out I would have got the ball rolling on the album. I would love to have it completed before spring next year. I am looking forward to showing people what Alexandra is about :-)
MG: You’ve just presented a really wonderful cover version of System of a Down’s song “Soldier Side”. Will you go on covering other famous songs? What song would you like to choose for your next cover?
Thank you! You know, I have heard so many songs in the past couple of years that have inspired cover ideas, I have quite the list building in my mind.
I am, however, going to concentrate now on original compositions. Saying that, I've got very cool ideas for Marilyn Manson's version of Sweet Dreams by the Eurythmics that I would love to compose. Perhaps further down the line I'll do an album of my own renditions!
MG: “Burden of Hope” is really terrific. Alexandra, what inspired you to compose it? What is this song about?
The story behind Burden of Hope is one that I am deeply connected with and lays very close to my heart. It is about war, injustice and history, unfortunately, repeating itself. Not only was it my first solo produced composition but also lyrically it was something I needed to get off of my chest.
I really would love to do an animated video for this piece. I know the direction I would go in and it would certainly help tell the story. I’d love to this in the near future and I am always on the look-out for a talented and creative animator to collaborate with.
I will also be releasing the instrumental for Burden of Hope very soon!
MG: We know you as a former vocalist of Adastreia. Can you tell us about this experience of your life and about this band?
As briefly mentioned earlier, Adastreia was formed between friends in around 2004. It was the first (and only so far) experience I have had of being in a band and it was also my first real 'go' at singing. Especially in a live capacity.
In the early days of the band I played the keyboards and also sung but we later found Hilary Towsey, a very talented keyboardist (a few years later replaced by Josiah Lutton). This allowed me to concentrate on my vocals and we were then on our way!
Writing together was great and we had something good going between us. We were metal and we infused dark, atmospheric and classical overtones into our music as well as some progressive elements. We all brought different influences to the table and I think that's what gave us an edge.
Over the years we recorded Emersi, which was an EP, Masked, a single and later That Which Lies Within, our album. We were pretty fortunate in landing great gigs and we played at prestigious venues alongside bands such as Xandria, Edenbridge and Epica. The response at these shows was incredibly positive and we really seemed to be gaining a loyal fan-base.
Despite this growing and loyal fan-base I had decided to part ways with the band in 2008. I wasn’t feeling as connected anymore and felt the need to go on my own musical path and explore other musical directions, despite still loving metal. It was not an easy decision but the right one for me in the long run.
After a short while of me leaving, Adastreia took on a new vocalist, Jamie Dodd, who was also a good friend of ours. Jamie offered a completely different vocal style that took the band in a new direction. A while later Wes Keenan (drummer) and David Friend (guitarist) left. Wes was replaced by Mike Row and Del remained as the only guitarist for the band. They played several shows and did some recordings but I believe now that they are on an indefinite hiatus.
Adastreia still have ever growing views on their YouTube videos and the band does still get inquiries and requests for albums. Adastreia members, old and new, really do appreciate the continued support and it's touching to know we had such an impact in the short time we were together. Del and I have thrown around suggestions of doing some kind of a reunion but I'm not sure that will ever really happen. Who knows though!
MG: What music (genres, certain singers or bands) do you prefer? Name some of your favorites, please.
I do have quite a diverse taste, which spans many genres and many decades but some of my most played at the moment are Classical, Ethereal, Middle Eastern, Metal and Progressive Psytrance. Overall my tastes have always remained on the ‘darker’ side of things.
Particular artists I think are incredible are Orphaned Land, Dead Can Dance and Lisa Gerrard, Irfan, Infected Mushroom, Pain of Salvation and of course, I love me some Chopin!
As for singers, Lisa Gerarrd’s stunning, deep, rich and colourful voice remains an inspiration. Her voice knows no boundaries and is truly transcendental in quality. Other singers that have stood out to me are Daniel Gildenlöw of Pain of Salvation and Mikael Åkerfeldt of Opeth. Both fantastic. I also admire the opera singer Cecilia Bartoli. Her rich, powerful, earthy and agile voice just blows my mind!
MG: As you used to be a metal singer, it’s interesting to know your opinion about the following problem. Some people think that nowadays metal music, as a genre, is going through a kind of crisis and stagnation. Some people think that metal is slowly dying and has no future, because it is faced with the lack of new ideas and approaches, and a lot of metal bands play the “we-heard-it-all-before-million-times” stuff. What do you think about it? Does this problem really exist? Does metal as a genre have a future?
I believe this problem persists in almost every genre. Obviously we cannot and will not please everyone. I think the artists have to do what feels right for them musically, to do what they love and what is true to their goals and aspirations. The music is such a personal thing to the artist and to the listener. For each person that may not be impressed or bored by what they are doing, there will be someone who plays their music on repeat and would never want them to change.
I think if something sounds great, works and it makes you and others happy, then why not keep going? There have been so many similar bands, with the same formula, in the metal industry for decades. I don't see why it should be any different for new emerging bands/styles in the field. Equally, I really do also encourage musicians to be themselves, push their own boundaries and welcome new ideas and challenges.
I think that the trouble is, is that once a style is created and doing well and a fellow musician loves it and gets inspired by it, so much so that they might want to write in that style too, then the same issue could persist.
Artists take and use influences and inspirations all of the time. It all comes from somewhere. It's a never-ending cycle and it can be very tough in this day and age to be truly original.
In the end, whether they’re a solo musician, a singer or a band, they need to take their own journey and ultimately they have to be themselves. If something inspires them to create, then create it! They'll make music and they and the music will evolve over the course of their career and may even invite and inspire others to start making music too, which is what we’re all here for in the first place. We’re all music lovers and it is wonderful to inspire and be inspired.
MG: Would you like to do a duet with a famous singer or musician? Whom would you like to collaborate with?
Oh, there are so many talented musicians and singers out there. Of course I would LOVE to work with them. I love collaborating and working with others, I find it so rewarding and something I hope to do a lot of in the future.
I’d actually love to duet with Serj Tankien of System of a Down. He and the band have always written the most beautiful melodies and he is a great singer. It would be really cool to work with him. I’d also love to do vocals on a track or two for Infected Mushroom!
MG: Do you go to the music concerts as a spectator? Which was the last one you have visited?
Whenever I see a band live it always inspires me and reminds me how much I love to make music. I suppose I do observe what is going on but I’m there to have fun and lose myself!
Actually the last concert I went to was a classical one by The Royal Philharmonic. The last metal gig I went to was Orphaned Land, who are truly incredible and really contributing, through their music, steps towards peace in this troubled world.
MG: How do you feel about crowdfunding as a source of the musical projects financing? Some musicians support this idea and some say it’s kind of dishonest and dishonourable to attract money that way. What’s your point of view?
I do support crowdfunding, just as long as they are being honest and people understand what the artist wants to achieve.
Someone may be so full of talent and possibilities but may have to sit on their ideas/projects because they don’t have the other tools to ‘kick start’ it properly. Engaging with people to help get them started and to also become a part of their project can really put the artist on the road to where they need to be and in return it will give back to those that contributed.
Also, the fans and backers that invested in them and supported them can be on that journey with them since day one. I think it can be really special, a group effort so to speak, for everyone that believes in the idea and wants to see it come to life. We’re all in it for the music!
MG: Can you advise the listeners some not well known, but talented (to your mind) British bands that are worth listening to?
I am sorry to say that I don’t currently know of any more unknown British Bands to recommend. I’m sure there are so many out there; I’ve just not come across them yet.
MG: How do you prefer to spend your leisure time? Do you have any hobbies?
Most of my spare time is spent composing, singing, spending time with my wonderful other half and with animals! When I am not doing that I try to go to gigs and shows when possible and I also love to read and watch movies.
MG: Are you fond of travelling? What places in the world have impressed you most? What cities perhaps?
You know, I have not travelled anywhere near as much as I would like to in my lifetime but I do plan to address that. Out of the places I have been to, the ones that have stood out to me the most are California and Israel. Both places are so different and have so much to offer! Each have special and wonderful people too!
MG: What’s the last book you’ve read?
I have recently finished reading the ‘A Street Cat named Bob” series, which was a very moving and enjoyable read. It is actually now being turned into a movie. I highly recommend this. I am now reading Jackson Galaxy’s “Cat Daddy”. You can probably guess, I love cats!
MG: Have you ever been to Russia? What is the wildest stereotype you’ve heard about Russia and Russians?
I have never been to Russia and would really like the opportunity to go some day. I can’t say I’ve heard any ‘wild’ stereotypes. Probably just the typical ones, you know, it’s freezing and you guys could drink the Irish under the table!
MG: Alexandra, as I know you live in Great Britain. Can you name a couple of reasons why people from all over the world should visit the country you live in?
There is a lot to see and do here. Whether it’s relaxing in the famous English Countryside with a cup of tea and some crumpets, or in London, exploring the rich history, seeing a West End musical, or an outing to a goth/metal club until the early hours of the morning. There is so much diversity, people from all over the world and truly, something to offer for everyone.
MG: Do we have a chance to hear you within a metal music project some day?
I still love metal, very much. I’m totally open to collaborating in this genre once more, should the right project present itself.
MG: And the last question is… could you say a few words to your Russian fans?
I would like to thank everyone that supported me during my Adastreia days and continue to show support now I have left. It really means a lot to know you are still interested in what I am doing. I hope to continue making a lot more music for you and I hope you’ll stay on this journey with me. Thank you!