EMQ’s with SUBTERRANEA
Hi everyone! Welcome to our new EMQ’s interview with Toronto, Canada based Dark/Ambient/Cinematic/Progressive/Doom project Subterranea. Huge thanks to Alia for a very interesting chat!
What is your name, what do you play, and can you tell us a little bit about the history of the band?
My name is Alia, and my project name is Subterranea. I am tracking the start date of the project from the sophomore official release – “Kingdoms Fall” (https://subterranea-witch.bandcamp.com/album/kingdoms-fall), which was in September 2017, but I started conceptually working on the project in the Fall-Winter of 2016-17.
I am a trained operatic singer, and a sole composer, producer, musician and audio engineer behind the project. When it comes to live performance, Subterranea started out as very flexible: I performed solo (with live operatic vocals, voice pedals and backing tracks) as well as with session musicians (violin, bass, guitar) but eventually decided to keep the performance solo, with the addition of extra live instruments – drums, cello, keyboard.
How did you come up with your band name?
In part, it was my fascination with folklore and mythology, and in part, I was influenced by a UK-based progressive band IQ. (A band who I knew and saw live many times when I was younger – Rick)
I am very inspired by chthonic imagery. In Ancient Greek pantheon, almost every divine deity had its “dark side” that was incredibly terrifying to the worshippers, yet equally necessary, and having its place in the grand scope of life. If a deity puts on its “chthonic” mask it means someone somewhere crossed the line, allowing this to happen.
I guess, for me – Subterranea is a justified and necessary manifestation of aggression, darkness, the monstrous feminine, and raw emotion that is both horrific in its rawness and dignified in its unapologetic honesty.
The name was really solidified when I heard the song ‘Subterranea’ by IQ.
I was mystified not as much by the song name as by lyrics:
Can I hold on, can I believe in
All the things you are?
There’s no sane in, chaos reigns in Subterranea.
and then again, later in the song:
Can I hold on? I cannot count them
All the things you are
Were I stronger I’d hold out longer in Subterranea.
I think the lyrics just spoke back to Subterranea being a chthonic entity that is chaotic and constantly expanding in every direction simultaneously. Subterranea, as a project keeps challenging me creatively, as if testing my endurance – how much stronger, more knowledgeable and inspired should I become to hold longer in the mental space of this project? I don’t know, but I am excited to find out.
What country are you from and what is the Metal/Rock scene like there?
I am from Toronto, Canada. I had the pleasure of experiencing more than one scene, really, because I also have friends in Vancouver and Montreal. Toronto (and Ontario) metal scene is strong, with quite a few really great projects that I believe have a fantastic future ahead of them.
We are a home to members of Leprous (Raphael Weinroth-Browne) and ex-member of Cradle of Filth (Lindsay Schoolcraft), but If I can be completely honest, when it comes to the general vibrancy of the scene (and not rare rockstar individuals), I believe Vancouver has much more fire and traction to it. Vancouver is a home to bands that really push the boundaries of genre fusion like Massive Scar Era and Ophelia Falling, Nott and Archaeon, and many more! And last but not least, Vancouver is currently leading on metal festivals: Armstrong, Metalocalypstick, Covenant – you name it!
What is your latest release? (Album, EP, Single, Video)
My latest release would be “Myrkri” – an EP (https://subterranea-witch.bandcamp.com/album/myrkri). This EP combines elements of progressive metal, industrial and symphonic metal, as always done in a signature chaotic style and inspired by the dark side of mythology.
Who have been your greatest influences?
Opeth, Dan Swano, Myrkur, Chelsea Wolfe, Ulver – those bands and artists, I would say, influenced my general musical direction. I also have episodic inspirations that sometimes contribute to fluctuations or experiments with my sound.
What first got you into music?
My mom. I was 6 and I didn’t know what to do with myself, so I was brought to a music school for an audition. But that was classical music.
But when it comes to prog and metal, which I got into after classical music – I think in the beginning it probably all can be traced back to my partner showing me favourite bands. When it comes to production and sound, metal and prog have so much to offer – it’s like a Wonderland to me: I am digging up things that I like, and try them out.
If you could collaborate with a current band or musician who would it be?
Hands down Mikael Åkerfeldt. But also, Dan Swano.
If you could play any festival in the world, which would you choose and why?
Roadburn. I wanted to say Night of The Prog first, of course, but I think I would fit Roadburn better.
What’s the weirdest gift you have ever received from a fan?
Creepy stares and obsessive messages. But that’s not weird, it’s just creepy. I don’t think fans have habits of giving weird gifts to musicians these days, do they? I mean; however you spin it, it’s also partially about being a female artist in the scene. Anything you could receive potentially from a fan *could* be weird with a varying degree of creepiness: underwear? Weird and creepy. Bra thrown on stage? Weird. Someone wants to make you a baby as a token of appreciation? Weird, creepy, and nope. Male groupies? Weird, creepy, and nope. When it comes to nice gifts, unfortunately no one gave me anything like hand-drawn cards, plasticine figurines, or anything of that sort.
If you had one message for your fans, what would it be?
I love you all.
If you could bring one rock star back from the dead, who would it be?
What do you enjoy the most about being a musician? And what do you hate?
I enjoy making music; I enjoy experimenting; I enjoy speaking the language of music without fear of being misinterpreted (as it often happens with speech). I also enjoy performing my music on stage.
I hate nepotism. Nepotism is so commonly present in the music industry – it is disgusting.
If you could change one thing about the music industry, what would it be?
I would make it publicly funded.
Name one of your all-time favourite albums?
Storm Corrosion – “Storm Corrosion”.
What’s best? Vinyl, Cassettes, CD’s or Downloads?
I like vinyl as a physical medium, but for me personally – Downloads. So many artists cannot afford to print their own vinyl or CDs, but Downloads is the most shareable medium out there that helps so many artists and dabblers to get heard.
What’s the best gig that you have played to date?
Probably a Tokyo gig at Earthdom.
If you weren’t a musician, what else would you be doing?
I do digital painting and design video games. That’s probably what I would be doing if not music.
Which five people would you invite to a dinner party?
Neil Gaiman, Mikael Åkerfeldt, Chelsea Wolfe, David Mustaine, and David Lynch. It would be one f*cking weird dinner party.
What’s next for the project?
If COVID-19 wouldn’t wipe out most of humanity – there will be more touring, more releases. Voluntary self-isolation already pushed me to finish a couple of collab records.
What Social Media/Website links do you use to get your music out to people?
I find this is the most artist-friendly music distribution tool that is easy to set up and use even for people who might not be interested in being full-time artists but want to share their music with the world.
Jaffa Cakes? Are they a cake or a biscuit?
Although they are “bisquit-sized”, the creator of said cakes probably knows best. Otherwise they would be called Jaffa Biscuits.
Thank you for your time. Is there anything else that you would like to add?
Stay tuned for more exciting developments! There will be recording line-up changes for Subterranea in the near future.
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