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Progressive Metal Jazz For Your Ears

Interview with: To-Mera 

(Yorgos Goumas) 

A few years ago Hungarian born Julie Kiss decided to move to England with her ex band, Without Face, to look for new oportunities. Eventually things didnīt work out but fate had it to run into some musicians with whom she shared the same vision regarding music. Nowadays, To-Mera have two records out, the latest one titled ďDelusionsĒ and we had a chance to talk to Tom McLean (guitarrist/composer) and Julie (vocals/lyrics) backstage after the gig in Madrid, which formed part of their Spanish tour in which they supported the Spanish band Ebony Ark.

To-Mera Q: Your new record sounds more consistent than the first one. Is it because you feel more comfortable now as a band? Any other differences between the two records?

To-Mera: We werenít even a real band on the first album! Iíd only met Akos, the drummer on Transcendental, twice before recording it, and rehearsal was obviously extremely limited. I donít think we even knew how the songs went before we recorded them! Shortly before 'Transcendental' was released, we replaced Akos with Paul, who allowed us to function as a real band i.e.rehearse! He also allowed us to write more extreme drum parts that Akos might not have been comfortable with. So weíre definitely a totally different band on this album. We also started practicing our respective instruments more seriously.

Q: You all seem to be very competent musicians. What is your musical background?

To-Mera: With the exception of Lee, who has now been replaced by Mark on bass (a graduate of the Guitar Institute in London) we have all had a degree of formal tuition on our instruments. Hugo had private piano instruction for many years, I studied classical guitar seriously until 16 years old, before I switched to electric. Paul was a percussionist in the National Youth Orchestra and studied at the Guildhall in London.

Q: Who's the producer of the record? What kind of sound do you look for?

To-Mera: Brett Caldas-Lima produced the album. Iím not sure if we all agreed on what sound we wanted with this album, but I think Brett came pretty close. It was important that the guitars sounded pretty fat, and the drums sounded punchy, and that was all I really asked for :P. My favourite production on a recent metal album is probably that on ďDrawing CirclesĒ by Textures, but I donít think that kind of sound would work well for us. Weíre not THAT precise :P

Q: Since Julie writes all the lyrics, could you tell us something about the things that inspire you?

To-Mera: Previously they were mostly inspired by literary works of some of my favourite authors at the time, namely Lovecraft and Poe as well as by a Hungarian poet called Miklos Radnoti. The new album is a lot more personal however. It was in a way a conscious decision to abandon my old ways and just...write from the heart, thereby hoping to attain more depth in the lyrics if you see what I mean...I think emotional content is very important in lyrics as well as in the music. Also, Iíve kind of been going through a process of purging my life of my own delusions and coming to terms with past and present; a sort of search for the right path I suppose and I had to write it out of myself. :) I got into reading a lot of philosophy as well, so references to these writings can also be found in the latest lyrics.

Q: The progressive rock of the 70's, jazz and modern metal seem to be your main influences. Could you tell us something more about them?

To-Mera: Youíre absolutely right, although I think we need to go back and explore 70ís prog more. Paul has only just introduced me to Gentle Giant and Magma and I feel like Iíve had my head in the sand all my life! I feel like an art-form has been lost and needs to be rediscovered and relearned! Most of the inspiration for Delusions came from listening to a lot of very contemporary bands such as Sikth, Meshuggah, Textures, Opeth, Pain of Salvation etc., as well as a lot of underground bands on Myspace (what a wonderful tool for discovering new music!). And I Iisten to jazz almost everyday. Jazz is the perfect antidote to listening to too much metal, as it is more about playing freely and spontaneously rather than with mechanical precision. But I love the discipline present in both art-forms, so it seemed natural to want to reconcile them.

Q: How did the band got together?

To-Mera: Lee and Julie met in a petrol station. I met her at a train station. I met Hugo in a pub and Paul we found on the internet. So a fairly random way of getting together ;)

Q: In what ways has Julie's character changed or been influenced by living in England?

To-Mera: I think Iím definitely more open minded than I used to be in many ways. Englandís really is a multi-cultural society and a very tolerant one compared with most other nations. It can also pride itself with having some of the greatest thinkers of the 21st century Iíd say in the form of people like Richard Dawkins or A.C.Grayling. Itís not perfect here of course, nowhere is perfect, but right now I canít really think of a better place to live.

Q: What was it like touring in Spain for the first time?

To-Mera: It was a wonderful experience! Our first proper tour of a foreign country (my first time in Spain ever in fact!), our first tour as a new band Ö we had a really positive and uplifting time, and some of the fans who came to see us were so passionate and appreciative, which you rarely see in England ;). It was exhausting though. Time is a different concept in Spain. Some shows didnít start until half-past midnight. In England the venue would have closed at 11!

Q: What does the future hold for To-Mera?

To-Mera: The only thing we can say for sure is musical development. Anything else is incidental, but obviously we hope to tour more. One notable event in the immediate future for us will be the opportunity to support Pain of Salvation in Julieís native land of Hungary in June. We are extremely excited about that!