Kathie Jarra of STYGMATA
Interview by EvilG & Mortuai
Platinum-haired metal goddess, Kathie Jarra, has gone solo with the release of BLEED under the band name Stygmata. Although this is her first solo album, some of you will recognize her name from the defunct band Jarra. In a nutshell, the style of metal on BLEED is straight up heavy metal. Some elements of power and thrash metal creep in at times, but overall this is classic heavy metal. We recently spoke to Kathie about her new album, the band, religion, blood, metal, etc!
With your band JARRA you released the studio album TEST OF FAITH (2000, Lion Music) and a live album JARRA, LIVE FROM PHOENIX (2002, Karma Records Group). What happened between 2002 and 2007 with you musically? When did Jarra break up and how, and what musical adventures were you on prior to your album BLEED with your new band Stygmata?
Hey Metal Dudes!!! First of all I would like to say thank you for having me. I am flattered and honored to be here with you at Metal Rules.
In answer to what I was doing musically in the interim between Jarra and STYGMATA, there was actually quite a lot going on under the surface so to speak. I had not stopped gigging since I was 16 and just felt it was time to step back and look at things clearly and decide on the next phase of my career.
So, when I first left Jarra, after the live release, I went full throttle into reinventing myself behind the scenes for a solo career by writing my ass off, focusing on my guitar playing and songwriting and re-launching the Karma Label.
Some background on Karma is that the Karma Label was originally created in 1999 due to the first deal we had pending for Test of Faith falling through at the last minute. I was disgusted by all that nonsense and had just decided I would create my own label to get the CD out and see what happened. Out of the blue, Lion showed and made the offer to sign us and we did. So at that time, I just parked the label and gave my all to the Lion deal.
That being said……when I left Jarra, I re-launched the Karma label, ended up signing and releasing CDs from two other bands which took a lot of money, time and energy while releasing the live CD and then began the pre-production for Bleed. I had actually had to hire and fire the first studio line up and the studio/engineer before I hired this line up That was the first delay and then Bleed was a such huge project on top of that issue it took quite a while to record, mix and produce properly. I really wanted to use analog tape for the drums and spent a lot of time seeking the right studio for that as well as choosing the 2nd recording line up for Bleed. I had to let go of linear time for a while it seems to get this all done right.
So in a nutshell, I re-launched my record label while securing worldwide distribution, signed and released CDs from two other metal bands, completed the writing for Bleed, released the CD, put the new line up in place and have gone into rehearsals for our upcoming tour and have begun writing the next STYGMATA CD of which I have several songs in the can as we speak.
On the break up of Jarra..let me just say for the record here that I NEVER wanted to be solo artist. Jarra was a band and that was what I always wanted to be…in a Band. I never thought I would be sitting here a solo artist after all those years of dedication to the band. I fought it long and hard before I finally made that decision. I would love again to have a permanent line up for STYGMATA however, reality is not always pretty and you have to do what you have to do at times for your own self preservation….for me… going solo was out of necessity…not out of desire.
The reason that Jarra broke up was for a few reasons really. We split up technically in 2002 after we recorded the Live CD. However, I did first leave the band in 1998 when I left NJ for AZ with the master of Test of Faith under my arm. There were issues then obviously and I left and moved to AZ alone. The band members contacted me in AZ and asked me to reconsider and begged me not replace them…..promising that they would move to AZ to put the line up back in place and knock off the crap. I had reservations but agreed.
When the band showed up in AZ and we got signed. The same issues resurfaced bigger and I had to move on.
The main reason was due to the fact that I had been writing all the lyrics, melodies, bridges, changes blah blah…basically the entire songs the entire time but to keep everyone happy, agreed to share writing credit and money to those that didn’t earn it to keep their egos happy. That was all bad enough but then when you add in severe drinking and alcohol abuse that is affecting the music and the performances and then the wives start trying to get into the band business, it is just time to call it a day. I was done with that unprofessional behavior. I am all about having a good time but I do not need to be completely hammered on booze to enjoy playing my music nor do I allow my personal life to interfere in the band. It was clear it was going to affect my career if I allowed it to continue and so I chose to opt out of the drama and play with those that wanted to play for the music like I do.
There were also musical differences surfacing as well and Jarra was a metal band and I needed the band to stay true to the metal and the others were trying to take us into directions where they could pacify their own egos……
I left with no regrets and never looked back and have been the happiest I have ever been now with STYGMATA and I have zero bullshit trying to negatively affect my music. The best thing I ever did was leave them.
Why the name change to Stygmata? Seems a little bit backwards since this is your first solo CD, yet your former group bore your name.
Haha…..how funny…………..oh well, I always seem to march to my own drummer and do things not quite the way everyone else seems to……but to be honest, I was never that comfortable using my name for the band. It was the band’s idea way back in the early days……..we had tried to come up with a really great metal band name but just couldn’t find the right one. The band just said…..”let’s just name it after you and we’ll change it later if you want to”…my point was that I wanted Jarra to be a band and not be confused as if it was a one woman show……but time went by and we just ended up using it and it ended up serving us well. When the STYGMATA energy came to me when I was trying NOT to use my own name again for my new band, I finally got a cool band name. haha……
Ironic…but almost prophetic in a way now that you mention it.
Stygmata is a deliberate misspelling of the word “Stigmata”. This word is associated with those deluded into thinking that marks/wounds on their body are in fact some kind of recreation of the wounds supposedly bore by Jesus during his crucifixion. What are your thoughts on this subject – clearly, it must interest you since you named your band after it!
Well from the research I did on it for the spelling is that I do believe the ancient spelling is with the Y. When I found it spelled that way I thought it just looked better anyway and had a better vibration but I do think the “y” was the original spelling which was changed to the “i” later in the English language.
I do have very spiritual roots and have studied many spiritual topics, but that is not in any way why I chose the name for the band…I just thought it was a cool name for a metal band and it was just very fitting for a CD titled Bleed. Not all that serious really…..just seemed to end up being a concept album on it’s own. It really did just start out with some basic ideas and then we just took the ball and ran with it.
There’s been a strong component of spiritually related subject matter on your past releases, and from the fact the very band logo for Stygmata contains religious symbols (namely crosses – both upright and inverted – and a Star Of David), it would seem that’s likely to continue into your solo career. Is it a subject that just comes naturally to you when you write?
Yes, you know……I really think it does just come naturally to me. I started playing piano at age 5 and writing songs at 9. When I got into my teens and starting writing more seriously, that is what came out of me. I never intentionally sat down and said I wanted to write songs with spiritual subject matter. I feel like when I am writing lyrics, it’s more channeling from my higher self. I allow what needs to come through me to come through me and I never question it…..So, yes, this is what comes out of me naturally and I have never written songs with lyrics like ‘rock me baby all night long etc”…….for some reason, the words that come through tend to be about things more unseen. I have always been quite a spooky chick anyway..haha…so it is rather fitting. I do expect it will carry over through the rest of my career but I will just allow and not overthink it.
On the logo……the artist that created the STYG logo for me is a very close friend of mine for a long time and when we talked about him doing the logo….I gave him creative freedom for it. He knows me very well and he knows I believe we are all the same more than we are different, so I expect that is why he put many symbols together to make the point that basically we are all from the same source and are all ONE even if we think we aren’t.
If it’s not too personal to discuss in an interview – what in a nutshell are your beliefs? Do you believe in a god, follow any particular religion, etc.
Oh boy…….good question….what am I? haha………….Well, raised Roman Catholic (surprise) …yes the little Catholic Schoolgirl turned Metalchick….haha…..
Today, I am a hybrid Christian / Buddhist if that makes sense.
I believe in a God… a Creator….. The Universe……an energy source from which we all come from……. whatever you would like to call it does not matter so much to me…….not a fan of organized religion and the only ‘Rules” I adhere to are that I always try to act in love, I do unto others, I harm none and I reverence all life.
Not sure what category that puts me in but I hope it is “good human”.
Who are the players on the BLEED album? Tell us a little about them such as how you found them and what their musical background is.
Well I was living in AZ at the time I recorded Bleed and since Jarra did get signed while I was there and we performed so much in AZ, it was natural that I would end up with AZ players for this CD.
The drummer that played on Bleed is my good friend, drummer, Mike Armstrong. He is actually blind and a 6th degree black belt. He is an amazing person and drummer. He has been blind for over ten years now and performs in his own metal band in AZ, called Siphon. When I first saw Mike play I had sooo many offers for the drumming position, but I knew that I wanted him to play on Bleed and he was all about it. When you work with a drummer that is blind, you have to really do your homework and rehearsing because…there is no way to ‘cue the drummer”..haha….you would think it was difficult but Mike is such a pro it was a breeze. He recorded nearly everything on the first take and put in a grueling 14 hour session to nail those drums for me. Mike’s singer, Brent Guiterrez, is the male vocal you hear on “Kill the Rainbow” and duets with me on “Hate”. When I saw Mike play and I heard Brent sing and wanting some male vocals on those two songs, I asked him to sing with me and having never sang together before…we cut those two tracks one short session and our voices really blended well together. So Mike and Brent come from the same band but are good friends as well.
My bass player is HB Abels. I met HB, another good friend of mine now through my drummer. They were good buds in AZ long before I arrived and Mike recommended HB for the bass position. He came by and we talked and played a few songs and it was a go. HB is also an engineer in his own studio in AZ and performs with his own band, Beyond the Now, in AZ.
The lead guitar player I hired was a dude from AZ also but he is a devoted family man and was not so interested in the other side of the business and prefers to remain anonymous to protect his privacy and his family and is known by his Pseudo in AZ as Judas. He was also referred by a friend of mine in AZ. Very good at soloing when you give him the song but not really part of the creative process. Just came in ..solo’d and went home…no interest in touring or living the rocker lifestyle…he just wanted to play on a metal record…and so he did….and we are respecting his wishes.
Tell us how you arrived at the name “bleed” for the new album. The blood theme comes up with songs like “Sea of Red”, “Bleed”, and the interesting cover of Slayer’s “Spill The Blood”.
Well, the title of the CD came after the song was written. I had written Bleed, the title track as one of the first songs for the CD. .wayyyy before the CD had a title and before we had the name STYGMATA. Bleed is track 4 on the CD and a metal ballad if you will. It is actually a love song if you listen to the lyrics…..and the word Bleed is actually a synonym for the word “Feel”….so when I was writing Bleed the song, I was really crying out for someone to “feel” my pain…not necessarily bleed physically. Again, I just thought it was a cool name for the CD….and since Test of Faith didn’t have a title track…I thought…..why not?
I do tend to write in the abstract it seems. None of this theme was really premeditated so much and it was all rather lots of creative spontaneous combustion with one creative thought leading to other creative thoughts.
Spill the Blood was chosen because I wanted always to remake a Slayer tune…the entire band being a big fan of the older Slayer material we threw a few things around in rehearsal and thought…..what a cool tune and that it would fit the CD too. Everything just fell into place with this…..I was not overthinking at all….it really was just a concept that seemed to have a life of it’s own. I wrote Sea of Red a while before I even wrote Bleed the song.
If you had to pick a favorite song form the BLEED album, could you, and if so what song would it be and why?
Oh, not sure I could pick just one…….they are all my little babies… haha……however, I do love Bleed, the title track because I love the dynamics and the way it grinds…….I love the lyrics and melody and am very proud of my vocal performance (on the whole CD but especially on this tune) and because at the time I was recording it I was going through alot of personal issues as well and Bleed just seems to sum it all up for me. I consider this one of my..if not…the best song, I have written to date.
I do also love Holy Lies because it is a runaway train rocker and a lot of fun to perform and Haunted also is a fav of mine because of the vocal work with the acoustic guitar in the beginning and I think it has a great hook…however, I do love them all……for their own worth. They all represent a part of my personality in some form.
Have members been chosen for the rest of the new touring band yet? I read that Jack Frost might tour with you? Is that still the case and if so, how’d that come about? Who else is in the lineup?
So far only one member has been formally signed on to perform on tour with STYGMATA…that would be Austin, TX, drummer Joel Duhon. I found Joel in Texas last year when I moved here to look for touring musicians. Joel has toured the world with major label acts for years and has quite a resume.
He is an amazing drummer with impeccable meter…..very rare bird as we know with drummers. You can set your watch to him he is sooo solid and tight. Amazing chops and great human being. He has also just signed a big endorsement deal with Trick Drums in Chicago and will be bringing out his bad ass purple Trick Kit for the tour. (You can see Joel and the kit here at www.Trickdrums.com)
On Jack…he as you know, has his own band, 7 Witches and they are always busy writing and recording and touring…..but Jack and I are both from NJ and we knew of eachother for long time back then. I was the little girl playing metal and he was already performing with Savatage and Metalium etc……we moved in similar circles but never had a chance to hook up musically. When I put an ad out for a touring guitar player….Jack found me and offered to come out and do the touring with me. I was really flattered that he respected my work so much…..so of course I said “fuck yeah”!!!!
We are still planning to work out the details but STYGMATA will also have a permanent guitar player to perform the shows that Jack is unable to do. Jack has also expressed that he will be bringing along his own bass player (TBA) for the shows he will be doing. So I will be signing on a perm STYGMATA guitarist and bassist for the project but will also be doing as many shows with Jack as I can because it will just be soooo cool to take that combination out on the road. We just have to do lots of planning to get the details in order so we do not interfer with his band or mine.
Yes, we are committed to making it happen it is just a slow process as you can see. As soon as we work out the details, we will issue a formal press release…but I am really looking forward to making it happen if the Universe allows.
How hard has it been to secure a touring line-up and have you been booking tour dates yet?
Not hard at all…………..I am really blessed……I have had sooo many great offers from great players from all over…..many major label players……it is just a matter of finding the right chemistry and of course scheduling. ….easy to find them…but so hard to choose…everyone is sooo amazing as far as musicianship.
We are going to start booking shows for the end of this year as warm up shows before we head out for the long haul …we plan to kick off in TX, and AZ, by the end of this year….where we will be doing CD release parties…..and then move onto NM, CA, NV etc.
The next area we plan to attack is the east coast…NJ, NY, CT, etc and then head overseas next year for the metal fests.
We are in the process now of securing the booking agencies that will handle the USA and Europe. We are really hoping to get out full time by February / March 2008 and plan to be out for the next 24 months.
I expect we will be announcing show dates by November for the end of this year and into the new year.
Did you write the BLEED material on your own or were co-writers involved?
I write all my own material…always have.
Some reviewers have labeled your vocals as similar to those of Doro Pesch. Would you say that’s a fair comparison or completely off base?
In my opinion…way off base. I tend to think maybe they may be possibly picking up some my german metal influences in the music (Scorpions / Accept) but vocally…..Dio is my main influence and always has been.
Although this is a very typical and sometimes boring question, I always find it interesting for newer bands/artists…and that is the question of your musical influences. Who inspired or continues to inspire and impact your singing style, songwriting, and guitar playing?
As I mentioned, Dio is my major vocal influence and always will be.
Primal Fear is my current inspiration as far as singing, guitar attacking and songwriting………….I would love to work with Mat Sinner on a record and my dream would be to do a metal duet with Dio.
You’ve been writing songs since a very young age, but when did you first know you wanted to play metal?
Good question…………I suppose it was discovering Accept, Scorpions and Judas Priest that lit that fire……and seeing Michael Schenker playing a white flying V in black leather pants….haha…..that would do it, yes?
Can we expect to hear any more forays into other musical styles, like your bluesy tribute to Stevie Ray Vaughn on the Test Of Faith album?
Never say never……..but at this time……..my main goal is to keep it as heavy and melodic as I can now. Nothing planned but that can always change because I am always open to creative ideas that pop in.
Are you still involved with the Villikon Chronicles movie project?
Yes, Bryan and I are good friends and although we are both really busy with our own projects now…………we do still have a plan to combine our talents in VC if we can. They originally hired me in the early days as their music supervisor for the film after they heard some of Test of Faith but then VC became a graphic novel series and that had to be put aside until it becomes a full length film. I love VC. It is a brilliant creation and I look forward to putting music to the film if we can get it to fly.
The VC artist, Roy Young, did the artwork for Bleed for me as well and is a good friend and out of the world genius! He is the main artist for VC and was working with Bryan on VC when we all met. So, yes……….
Do you think the metal community has, for lack of a better term, “evolved” to the point where a band like Stygmata can be fairly treated and respected for its songs rather than trading on the “oddity” factor of having a female singer/guitarist?
Apparently so……….I never seemed to have any issues with respect in Jarra and since I never consciously think about that fact, I expect that the metal world has always been evolved enough to know what is authentic and what is fabricated cheese. So, yes…yes …yes!!!!!!! haha….If you do what you love and love what you do…..it translates no matter what package you happen to be in. At least that has been my experience. I work very hard to be a good musician / singer / songwriter and player….I think that is all you need to do to get respect. The metal world has been extremely good to me.
So what is a typical day for Kathie Jarra like? Are you fulltime metal goddess with the band and Karma Records, or do you have other things going on that take up time as well?
Funny…………..oh for sure…..I am a Metal Goddess…..haha……
Seriously, I am very fortunate to not have to work a day job any longer and I do spend most of my daily life working on the label and the music.
However, I do other things around the house as well but to be honest…I spend alot of time in my pool these days……..
What is next for you and the band – are you writing more material already, planning a tour, etc…
We have lots planned for STYG as I mentioned…..we are in rehearsals now for the tour that will take up the next 24 months of my life and yes, I have already wrote about 1/3 of the new STYGMATA project on my own but I do not have any desire to get back into the studio just now…….I am all about touring this CD and then coming home to do a new CD at the right time. So Yes, there will be another STYGMATA CD following this one. And a tour end of this year into next.
When will www.stygmata.com be up and rolling?
We are thinking November……It is all in process now……….the sad thing is that my good friend and webmaster passed away suddenly in AZ in March leaving the site incomplete and along with that…..we have been trying to get all the files and content retrieved from his belongings and then hire someone new. It would have been up and running by now but we suffered a great loss of our friend and webmaster and that will be the final stage we need to complete so we can get the mp3s and tour dates up. For now we are directing everyone that would like to hear mp3s of Bleed to go to www.Myspace.com/STYGMATA
Is there is anything else you’d like to let people know about?
Just would like to thank you guys for being so great and for your support of the new CD.
Also would like to thank the fans for their amazing support through my Transformation from Jarra to STYGMATA and I will see you all out on the road very soon!!!!
We plan to have full merchandising in place when we head out and they can find out all about that at the label site, www.KarmaRecordsGroup.com