7 Questions with Britta Gortz of Cripper

britta - 7 Questions with Britta Gortz of Cripper

by Ryan Meehan

Cripper have been converting fans to their cause with their riveting mix of old school and modern thrash metal since their inception in 2005. The band’s accomplished technical refinement, along with a healthy serving of groove, makes for a diverse and distinct listening experience. The guys and gal from Hanover, Germany have already made their impression as a rousing live band, and will look to continue to do so in support of their new album, “Hyëna.” Previously fans have seen Cripper on tour with Overkill and Onslaught, in addition to repeat performances at major European festivals: Summer Breeze, Wacken Rocks, Metalfest, and Rockharz Open Air.  But there’s even more – Cripper has been on board the immensely popular 70,000 Tons Of Metal cruise ship from Miami twice. They’ve also played the Brutal Assault festival in the Czech Republic, Bang Your Head in Belgium, the Netherlands, Poland, Austria, Switzerland, and they have been invited to perform at the Slovenian Metaldays 5 times! Cripper has put in the time and miles to garner a strong international reputation along with an ever expanding fanbase.  After having been exposed to Cripper at Metaldays 2013, Metal Blade Records signed the vibrant and highly motivated self sufficient group of musicians. The band’s creativity is always on display through in three different aspects: album artwork, merchandise, and (so far) four complex, and entirely self-produced music video productions.  Hyëna,” Cripper’s fourth studio album, is 11 tracks that each exemplifies the band’s unique flavor. The band would describe this album as overall much more heavy than previous works, and with a different, more transparent sound concept. “Hyëna” stands as an album that’s of special significance for the band. It’s their first with Metal Blade, and with the label’s global reach, they stand to further broaden their horizons and continue to grow to become one of metal’s finest up and coming acts on the planet.  Lead vocalist Britta Görtz of Cripper is our guest today in 7 questions.

RM:  At this point in your career, how tired are you of fielding questions with regards to being a female lead singer in a metal band?  Who were some of the female heavy metal and hard rock vocalists that you looked up to when you were younger?

BG: Haha, good way to start an interview! I must admit that I am quite tired of it, especially because I have never thought about my gender in this band before the first interview questions about that topic came up.

I never thought “oh look at what she is doing, a girl in a heavy metal, that’s what I wanna do, too”. What got me to wanting to play in a band was probably that I thought it was a good way for me to express myself and at the same time channel my energy. Energetic live shows no matter of which genre attract me. Shows where you can feel the electricity in the air, where it kicks your butt and really grabs you. I am trying to find a certain kind of flow on stage and to share my energy with the fans. That’s not easy, cause it is nothing that you can create every time, but that’s what I am aiming for.

RM:  Other than the fact that this record is heavier than your previous three offerings, what is different about “Hyëna”?  From a production standpoint, what were you really aiming to do with this record in order to get it to have its own unique sound and feel?

BG: The way Hyëna was written is different from all other previous Cripper albums. First of all, the actual writing phase was quite short. Our goal was to release this album in autumn or winter 2014. The main reason for that was simply festival booking. The festivals give away their slots earlier and earlier, and with a release in March or April 2015 you might be too late for many festivals in 2015 and when festival season of 2016 starts, you’re record is already old. So, to get ahead of that we sped up the writing process as much as we could. It turned out to be a great idea also songwise, cause we sometimes tend to overthink our songs too much. While our previous record Antagonist seems to more present our head, Hyëna is coming more from our guts. It turned out heavier and more aggressive than the previous 3 releases.  I’d say we fine-tuned our style and sharpened the edges. We had a very clear vision and path for most of the songs before we started writing them which really helped us focusing and polishing each song’s character. We wanted to write an album that takes you on a journey. Don’t get me wrong, “Hyëna” is not a concept album. It is more an variety of viewpoints, introducing you to different angles and aspects of the same sphere.

Soundwise we made some changes, with which we are really happy on this album. It carries the music very well and I am glad we put as much effort into the sound as we did. The sound is more transparent and we used fewer guitar tracks, which gave us more possibilities in the mix. That of course adds to the more aggressive and heavier overall atmosphere.

RM:   For anyone who has had not had the privilege of being aboard “70,000 Tons of Metal”, what is that whole experience like? As a musician, how does that work? Do bands share equipment with each other; or is there enough space on that particular vessel for all of the bands to stash their own guitars and amplifiers?

BG: It is a hell of an adventure and lots and lots of fun! I mean, even as a bandmember the whole cruise is more vacation than it is work. 2 shows, a couple interviews, then laying by the pool drinking cocktails or enjoying other bands playing.

The equipment situation is solved perfectly. They provide you with everything needed, such as speakers, amplifiers, drum kit etc. Of course you can bring and use your own stuff, but you can only bring a limited amount of stuff – I mean, it is a ship and not an open field and apart from your own cabin there’s not much room for stacking gear. For bands like us coming from overseas, we just brought our instruments and basic parts of the drum kit. Traveling with gear is not only expensive, it is a pain in the ass. You need a ton of paper work and usually going through security checks and customs takes longer with each item you bring. They offer very good equipment on the ship, so we used their amps etc.

RM:   How does that experience differ from a festival such as Wacken?

BG: An event like Wacken with 70,000 people has a very different vibe than partying with 2000 or 3000 people on a cruise ship. It is more intimate, but still the bands are known well, so nothing compared to festivals of that size ashore. And the average age of the fans is higher, since the price difference in a Wacken ticket and a 70k ticket is quite big. That makes it difficult for kids still in school or studying. And there’s no mud on the ship and people don’t stink, haha.

Since the bands and the fans (if you wanna divide it like that – cause most of the bands are also fans) aren’t separated through a backstage area or so on 70k, everyone seems quite relaxed about taking a picture or asking for an autograph. I mean, there’s time to let Chuck Billy finish his breakfast before you ask him to sign your Testament vinyls.

RM: What exactly is “The Killer Escort Service”? Is that strictly a fan-run thing; or do any of the band members have any kind of personal association with those individuals?

BG: That is a Facebook page run by a close and long time friend and fan of the band. He took over the name of our first demo EP „Killer Escort Service“. It was all his idea.

RM: You guys are clearly a thrash metal band, and as a lot of people know recording and performing that type of music can be extremely strenuous on one’s vocal chords…Are there any kind of vocal exercises that you choose to do on a daily basis so you don’t lose the momentum of being able to pull off that set every night? Do you follow any sort of a specific dietary regimen in order to keep your throat in prime physical shape?

BG: I have some warm up exercises that I do prior each show, like humming and singing some scales. There are many warm up exercises and every singer I talk to took on something else. These warm ups aren’t only important for my vocal cords, but also they serve as a ritual to prepare myself mentally for stage. It is like taking a heavy jacket off, your „other life“ jacket that carries your worries or stress from that day. Both is important, the physical and the mental warm up.

Lots of sleep and lots of water is good for staying in shape. Drinking too much alcohol can dry your body out, so I try to balance my partying, but I am not always successful of course, haha. There’s no special diet or other secret I have. Staying healthy and fit in general is all my voice needs, and that includes working out regularly and eating healthy, fresh food. But all that without stressing out about it. When I’m in the mood for a burger, fries and coke and then a big portion of ice cream, I go for it.

RM: Cripper recently signed with the legendary label Metal Blade Records…For you personally, what is the most exciting thing about this opportunity?

BG: Metal Blade are providing a much bigger platform for us than we had before. That will give us the opportunity to reach more people across the world and to play in places we have never played before. I wanna travel and play as much as I can.  Besides that, getting the attention from Metal Blade after they saw us playing live is an acknowledgement of us as a band. That was a very exciting moment.

RM: What’s up next for you guys in the remainder of 2014? Anything big in the works that we need to know about?

BG: We started talking about some music videos for songs of the new album a couple days ago. It is so hard to decide, cause there are many suitable songs on Hyëna. Since we started Cripper, we have always wanted to shoot a road-movie style video, with a gas station robbery, kidnapping and all that cool shit. We are still dreaming about that and I really hope that we will be able to make that dream come true. Luckily we have almost everything you need to produce high quality music videos in the band. We all have a good imagination, I love doing storyboards and Jonathan is a gifted video director and editor. That is a very comfortable situation for a band, since you can expand your direct creativity into more than the music.

Besides that we hope for an opportunity to bring our baby out on a tour and get the new songs on stage. But that’s something for 2015, not 2014.

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