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Interview: Stacey Savage from Savage Master

Everyone has a bit of the devil inside, and Stacey Savage is no exception. As the ass-kicking front woman of occult heavy metal band Savage Master, Savage has been tantalizing listeners with her piercing shrieks, no-holds-barred approach toward live performances, and ability to transcend from mere mortal to all-powerful sorceress—able to not only summon the devil himself, but also enrapture him with the band’s potent blend of magic.

Like a sip of cold beer on a hot summer day, Savage Master’s second album and upcoming release, With Whips and Chains is sure to satisfy even the most unquenchable of fans. Savage’s vocals soar over a landscape of despair masterfully crafted by her executioners’ (band mates Adam Neal, Larry Myers, Brandon “BB Gunz” Brown, and Zach Harris) old school guitar riffs, blistering solos, and heavy chanting.

While channeling acts such as Judas Priest, Bitch, and Iron Maiden, Savage Master’s dark lyrics paint a perfect complement to listeners’ very own B movie chase scene. Whether they’re the leather clad, motorcycle-riding villain searching for a sacrifice or the victim fleeing for their life is up to them.

Music Existence was recently able to converse with Savage via Skype about the band’s fast-paced journey, striking image, and more.

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ME: How would you describe your brand of metal to new listeners?

Savage: I would describe us as occult heavy metal. Our biggest influences are early-to-mid 80s heavy metal and New Wave of British Heavy Metal. We’ve got a lot of occult and satanic lyrics as well.

ME: Are there any bands that were particularly strong influences?

Savage: Different aspects of our band are drawn from other [acts], but we also tried to stand out and not rely too heavily on any other band for influence. I like a lot of Judas Priest, Witchfinder General, and all those bands. Adam’s got a lot of W.A.S.P. and Piledriver influences. We listen to a lot of music, so it’s like a mountain of everything we listen to really. [Laughs]

ME: Since you are a relatively new band, I was wondering if you could talk about how everything came together.

Savage: Adam and I met through a mutual friend in the music scene here in Louisville [Kentucky]. He had an idea for a band with a female vocalist, I was looking for a band, and we both wanted to do classic heavy metal. We started talking immediately about the band. I sent him a demo of my vocals—they were actually Judas Priest and Witchfinder General songs [laughs]—and he liked it. We decided to get a band together from there. Adam got together some friends he worked with in the past, and we just got going.

ME: Does Kentucky have much of a metal scene?

Savage: It’s small, but it’s growing. What we like to do when we play here is bring bands through that we’ve played with in other places. We’re trying to pump more energy into the scene and make it even bigger.

ME: That’s always great to hear. Then, I was wondering how your current label discovered you.

Savage: I believe it was May or maybe March of 2013. We played our first show here in Louisville, and somebody uploaded video of it. Bart Gabriel of Skol Records over in Poland contacted us five hours after that show. So the Internet is really—it’s crazy what can happen.

We were on this path of, “OK, we’re going to put out this first album ourselves. We’re going to push it, and hope somebody will like it and want to sign us.” We did not expect to be contacted like that. We ended up putting our first album out with Skol records as opposed to doing it on our own.

ME: I haven’t heard of that happening before!

Savage: No! And you can’t expect that. It’s rare and very wild.

ME: How did you get into metal music? As a woman, I know people don’t usually seem to expect me to listen to metal.

Savage: I have the same experience. If someone doesn’t know me from the band, a lot of the time they’re shocked that I sing metal. I started out as a kid listening to classic rock radio. As I got older (when I was in high school), I had some friends that were into a lot of death metal, black metal, extreme stuff. So I liked that too, and I found middle ground with the old school heavy sound from the 80s that’s a bit before the extreme metal.

ME: How do the people who don’t know you’re a front woman react when they find out and see your onstage image?

Savage: They’re usually pretty surprised, but most people appreciate that we’re doing something visual. Some [musicians] look like they just got done playing video games when they pop on the stage [while] we’re about giving you entertainment and having a good time. We also like to throw back to the bands that inspire us.

ME: I read that the film, Black Sunday, prompted your image. Was there anything from the film that stuck with you as a group or helped you decide your onstage personas? What was the general thought process behind your image?

Savage: In cultivating our image, we definitely got influence from the movie. Barbara Steele [who plays Asa Vajda] is the main character, and she’s an evil witch who controls these executioner guys. Our first album, Mask of the Devil is a play on the movie’s alternate title, [The] Mask of Satan. I adopted that persona of controlling these hooded executioners, so we definitely got a lot of our stage image from that.

ME: I like the thread of female empowerment.

Savage: Definitely. I wanted to be a strong female in the band. Some bands are more like, “Oh, well, I’m pretty,” or whatever. I didn’t want to do that. I probably look scary with my makeup on [laughs]. I love Doro Pesch. I think she’s a warrior woman, and that’s what I wanted to be.

ME: It definitely comes through. This is a bit of a side note, but where are your costumes from?

Savage: I sewed the hoods myself. We bought vests from the trucker stop and put studs on it ourselves, and then we got the harnesses online [laughs]. We kind of [collect] little bits of our costumes from different places, and then we adjust them to fit our look.

ME: What about your costumes? I’m a little jealous of them.

Savage: Yeah! The first stage outfit that I wore for promoting Mask of the Devil was a corset that was made by Marta Gabriel of Thunderball Clothing, and she’s married to our manager, Bart Gabriel, who runs Skol Records. She sent it to me as a gift, and it was just awesome. I love wearing it onstage. Now I’ve got a different outfit going on for this second album. It’s a breastplate, like a metal bra kind of thing. It’s got some upside down crosses hanging from it with chains, and then I have a little vest with some studs and skulls on it, some metal belts, black leather pants and black suede boots with studs on them.

ME: It sounds cool!

Savage: [Laughs] All of that outfit I got from various places. The breastplate I got from Etsy. I got a lot of the little metal pieces from craft stores and put them on myself. I ordered the pants online. It’s kind of a mish mosh of different things.

ME: It’s nice how everything is put together and your own creation versus something you just bought.

Savage: Yes, with our look, we don’t want to be wearing hoods that you can get somewhere else. We don’t want me to wear something that you can go buy somewhere else. We want it to be really different and personal.

ME: This is switching topics a bit, but you do have a very distinct style of singing. I was wondering how you developed that sound and how you keep your voice going, especially when performing multiple shows.

Savage: I have a lot of vocal influences ranging from like … Doro Pesch to even a more thrash kind of singing for some of our faster songs. It has a more aggressive edge to it. Maybe some of the earliest black metal bands had some influence on my vocal style. I don’t know how it happened really. It just came out and fit with the music [laughs]. I did have problems with losing my voice on our first tour, because [while] I have sung throughout my life, this is my first band. I never had to sing up against a bad PA with the guitars really loud and the drums—of course, you have to sing over the drums. We played all of these different clubs where sometimes my PA was not exactly very strong, and I had to just be loud. I kind of broke my voice in over the first couple weeks of touring. After that I have not had any problems with losing my voice. I just drink water like crazy onstage, and I try to sing from the diaphragm, not from the throat. There are different techniques, so the gruffness has to come from a certain part of your mouth rather than coming your throat. Techniques like that help keep your voice healthy.

ME: That’s all really interesting. I personally cannot make those sounds so—

Savage: I’m sure you could if you worked with it for a while. It takes practice [laughs].

ME: Both of your albums, Mask of the Devil and With Whips and Chains, have a raw recording sound to them. I was wondering what made you go for that feel and how you achieve that.

Savage: The raw sound is really close to our heart. We want to have a strong rock and roll feeling and realness to the music that I don’t hear with drum machines and extremely polished music. A band might sound a certain way in the studio and then when you see them live, they sound nothing like the recording. We wanted to stay true to sounding like the recording and sounding like we’re real, we’re right there, and we’re just having fun.

ME: Then what does the songwriting process look like?

Savage: Adam starts with writing a riff, and then we start writing the chorus together to get the skeleton of the song. The band practices Wednesday and Thursday nights every week, so we go in there with the rest of the guys. Larry, our other guitarist, writes all his solos, and then Zach on drums always has some really kickass ideas. We all talk together, and if anybody has an idea of how to add or do something differently, we’ll see how it sounds.

ME: What inspiration do you use for lyrics?

Savage: I take most of the inspiration from my personal philosophies and a lot of imagery from the music that I like, which is usually occult images like witches, necromancers, and stuff like that. We like to have this vivid fantasy world that we translate the lyrics through.

ME: Right, and listening to it is almost like watching a horror movie.

Savage: Horror movie influences are huge in our lyrics for sure.

ME: This album seems to bring up this sense of nostalgia for more old school metal. I was wondering what your views are of the current metal scene and the direction it’s headed.

Savage: I’m seeing a resurgence of traditional heavy metal, power metal, and older styles coming back right now. I even have friends in death metal bands, and they’re not playing modern sounding death metal, they’re playing old school—like Obituary-influenced—death metal. As a whole, I think the metal scene is going back to old school sounds and pushing forward into something new.

ME: It’s pretty exciting.

Savage: I think so, too. That’s what I love the most, and it’s really cool to see a lot of people having that passion.

ME: Switching gears again, I saw that you have a couple upcoming shows in the United States and then a European tour scheduled. What can concertgoers look forward to?

Savage: They can look forward to a good time. We like to do a lot of songs where the audience can feel involved, whether they’re chanting with us or singing along with the chorus. We want to give them what we get when we see our favorite bands play, so it’s a really good time.

ME: Is there any place in particular you’ve played in the past that you’d say was your favorite?

Savage: We’re from Louisville, Kentucky, and Chicago [Illinois] is our home away from home. They’ve got a killer metal scene, and any venue we’ve played there has been a great show. They have a huge scene of people who will go out to every metal show, and a lot of people travel to Chicago to see metal shows. It’s a great place to play.

ME: Then, is there a city or country you’re most excited to play in on the upcoming tour?

Savage: We’re definitely most excited to play the Keep It True festival in Germany. We’ve had a strong following in Germany since the very beginning. Bart Gabriel is good friends with Oliver [Weinsheimer] at the festival. They always talk about music, and they’ve both listened to us. Oliver’s interviewed me for Deaf Forever magazine. Ever since then all of these German fans have messaged me. We sold our first t-shirts online, and half the orders were to Germany. We feel like we have a good following there, and I can’t wait to meet those fans.

ME: Will there be any additional U.S. dates later this year?

Savage: Following the European tour, we will have some American and Canadian dates. We don’t have anything official yet, but we are definitely going to do a big run of the United States in as many places as we can hit.

ME: My last question then is if you have any last words for readers.

Savage: I want to thank you for having me, and I hope that all the readers and fans like our new album, With Whips and Chains. It’ll be out May 13th, which is a Friday the 13th, so that should be easy to remember [laughs].

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