By Carl Begai
In actual fact she departed the Cradle Of Filth realm in 2008 with one front-and-center Angtoria album – also featuring Tommy Rehn (ex-Moahni Moahna), Chris Rehn (ex-Abyssos) and Dave Pybus (COF) – under her belt as of 2006, but 2010 marked her first real leap without a safety net. This past February saw the release of her solo debut, A Sign Of Sublime, followed months later by a short and not-so-sweet UK tour. No complaints from Ms. Deva at this stage of the game, however, as the recording and live experiences taught her some valuable lessons about what it takes to call her own shots as an artist. It’s worth noting that in spite of her long history as Cradle Of Filth’s backing vocalist it was Angtoria’s lone album, God Has A Plan For Us All, that ultimately set the bar on high for A Sign Of Sublime. Thus, while Sarah is confident in her continued pursuit of a solo career, she’s unable to judge at this point how her work stacks up for Angtoria’s followers.
“To be honest, I couldn’t tell you. I know one of my best mates, Laura, wasn’t into it as much as Angtoria, and I value her opinion because she listens to a lot of female fronted bands. Angtoria is in a league of its own because Listenable Records gave us a very nice budget and supported us every inch of the way. It was also written in one country. Sadly, A Sign Of Sublime was thrown together and so much went wrong. My poor mixing guy Dan Abela was given an impossible three day deadline to correct major screw-ups – not from the musicians part either – that should have taken weeks. So I didn’t really take much notice of reviews because if anyone knows what’s wrong or right with the album, we do.”
“I think people liked most of the album, though; tracks like ‘The Devils Opera’, ‘New Born Failure’, ‘Genesis’, ‘A Sign Of Sublime’ and ‘Daddy’s Not Coming Home’. I can’t fault and wont fault, but other tracks suffered. I also think due to lack of press on the UK side, people still don’t know much about the album, but because I’m so active on Facebook and Myspace music I’m just updating people all the time; even Angtoria fans. It takes a lot of time to get somewhere. I was at the top of the ladder almost as a session singer but now I’m a frontwoman, so I’m bottom of the ladder and it’s going to take a long time to get even half way, but I don’t care about that. I’m no stranger to hard draining work and I’m lucky to have some very amazing people by my side.”
Sarah embraced her new role completely for A Sign Of Sublime, making the ballsy move of setting up a short headline tour for her native UK. Asked if it was a success or more trouble than it was worth, she’s brutally honest about the pros and cons of her little adventure.
“I get slagged off for being honest and slagged off for lying, so where the hell do I start? The promoters bent over backwards for us. The guy who booked our tour didn’t have much experience but bent over backwards for us too, and although the tour wasn’t overly successful it was a good starting point. Stupidly, the tour was booked in the middle of summer, smack bang in the middle of all major festivals; some of the places we played were university towns, so when we played some of the areas were like ghost towns. This was my first ever tour as a frontwoman, it wasn’t promoted by the record company and I was told ‘I refuse to do an ad as I have spent enough on you already.’ Therefore, it was left down to the venues to promote as much as they can, and with so much going against us people just didn’t know about the shows. This was also due to the fact that shows were still being confirmed one week before our tour started!”
“Originally, I was playing Download Festival – or so I was told – but later told ‘it wasn’t happening.’ If we had gotten that show our tour would have gone much better because people would have been more aware of us. At the end of the day, while people are sitting behind their desks farting, we’re the ones working our arses off, and it wasn’t easy health wise. Some of us got really sick, but to meet the promoters and the fans we would do that all over again if we had any money.”
Sarah admits, however, the she definitely felt first show jitters in spite of her years of on-stage experience.
“For a few weeks before I was shitting myself (laughs). I mean, how do I become a frontwoman within one show after I’d spent so many years being a backing singer? I had no clue. I thought maybe I should watch some other front women, but I don’t copy people, I don’t want to be influenced by other singers. I felt I just had to do what I felt was natural. The funny thing is, when I walked on stage I was less nervous than any other band I had sung for. I was surprised. It was like I had done it a million times before and I loved it. But, I do however still need to learn how to work an audience; that comes with experience and maybe a bit more confidence. I think you have to have a certain amount of ego also, and that’s something I do not have, I can’t stand in front of the audience expecting them to scream with me or clap with me. I don’t know; as I said, experience I suppose. I have very little as a frontwoman but loads as a static tree (laughs).”
Logical assumption dictates that most of the people that showed up at the gigs were Cradle Of Filth fans or Angtoria followers, hoping that Sarah would yank a few tunes from those respective catalogues.
“There were Sarah Jezebel Deva fans, Angtoria fans and Cradle Of Filth fans,” she reveals. “People knew Gian was going to be there too, so I think it was a mixed bag. I think Cradle fans knew they were not seeing Cradle Of Filth, because I can’t scream like Dani (laughs). Although me and Gian were talking about covering ‘Tearing The Veil From Grace’; we thought that would be cool. Because I knew there would be Angtoria fans there too, we did play three Angtoria tracks. I’ve been gagging to play those songs for years, so it felt wrong to ignore that album. Why would I? I love it and so do so many others.”
The long running Metal Female Voices Festival in Wieze, Belgium – held annually in October – was the largest show of Sarah’s tour. What started out as a disaster translated to a positive by gig’s end.
“We were really very lucky to get that show and the couple that run it are the most amazing people on the music scene; so friendly, and they care about their bands. The pressure was there right away because we had been given the chance of a lifetime. These people were not all about the money, they’re about the music and it showed. Sadly, the show wasn’t the best for us. Just as we were about to go on the computer our drummer was using just refused to work. Somehow, something happened between our last rehearsal and getting on stage and it ruined the whole set list for us. The lady announced us, fans were ready, and then it was 15 minutes of silence before we could get on stage. But, such is life! Then my in ear was cutting out every time I moved, so I thought ‘Ok, I’ll take it out and listen to the floor monitors…’ but the floor monitors were so loud that when I went closer to them with my mic the feedback was deafening! So, I couldn’t move or hear well (laughs). What could have gone wrong did go wrong.”
“I know the guys had a really good show and they moved well. Sadly, I just couldn’t move, but I’m glad we did it. It was an experience and we learned a lot, learned to have a back-up plan too! My sound guy was running back and forth trying to sort the laptop issue out; he had to use his laptop, which had a different setlist on it. He later told me ‘I wasn’t going to bring the thing with me. We would have been fucked if I had left it at home.” It turned out the only reason he brought it was ‘cos he’d uploaded a season of a comedy that he wanted to watch while we were on the road (laughs).”
“Overall, I think we gained fans. We did a signing session and there were a lot of people there, so we left on a high. The feedback we’ve had is ‘I never thought I would like your music but I do. You are more metal than I thought you would be and the live sound is great.’ People just need to take a chance I suppose.”
The follow-up to A Sign Of Sublime is currently in the works. According to Sarah, all the bugs from the previous recording experience have been effectively squashed. And they were huge…
“This album is bigger and more thought out than A Sign Of Sublime, but only because the same mistakes cannot be repeated. People worked so hard on that album only to have files missing, over-edited or not replaced when it came to mixing. It was a bit of a shock to us when, for example, we came to mixing ‘Bitch’ and half way through the song only drums and vocals were there; everything else was missing. Now, ALL recording is being done in one studio, not over-edited, and a lot of love has gone into this from all involved. Originally, I started this with Ken, and sadly, it ended badly because I had no control on certain things. He worked so hard on the songs he wrote, only to have the wrong guitar files used in the final production. Max wasn’t happy either. He’s an awesome drummer, but all drums were over-edited.”
“Funny thing is, I was warned about this when I was in Australia. I was living with someone who supported me so much musically – he even built a music room so I could do music – when he heard the final edit of the drums he pointed out how all ambiance had gone. I relayed this back to the person responsible, only to be told ‘If you don’t fucking like it, release your own album…’, so we were stuck. No compromise, no choice. Everyone could see what was going on, slowly, apart from me because I was so desperate to break free from this ‘backing singer’ label I had. I just wanted to sing at any cost and get the album done.”
“This new album has been written by myself and Dan Abela, although Luke Sibthorpe (The Dead Lay Waiting vocalist) wrote a ballad for me. My amazing bass player Ablaz wrote a track, too, and the intro was written by a young composer called Marcus. Dan owns Escape Route Studio’s in Essex, UK and worked on A Sign Of Sublime. We had a lot in common, so we decided to write a new album. It’s called The Corruption Of Mercy, it’s darker, heavier and gives me a chance to sing differently, as in you can hear the expression in my voice, the conviction, which is something I lacked on the metal tracks on A Sign Of Sublime. The melodies are so catchy, too. Touring hasn’t changed the sound for this new album, communication and trust has. That may not make sense to people but it does to us.”
As for the long awaited follow-up to God Has A Plan For Us All, now a good three years overdue for some people…
“In limbo. Not to say we will not do another album at all. For me, my main focus is the Sarah Jezebel Deva band. There, that was a short answer, huh (laughs)?”
– Live photos by Khyrian, used with kind permission from Sarah Jezebel Deva