Interview with Vocalist Soozi Chameleone
Interview by Jo Blackened
Photography by Altercarnated Photography
Bands Social Media sites:
Satlan is a London based heavy doom metal band fronted by vocalist Soozi Chameleone. We were invited to join them as vocalist Soozi shot their music video for ‘(In)Sanity’ from their upcoming debut album ‘Panacea’, which will be available from 31st May 2021. Watch their new music video below…
Hey Soozi and thanks for your time today! This is a great location to shoot your music video, what made you decide to use this location?
Thank you! We wrote ‘(In)Sanity’ as something of an homage to thrash metal; Our usual sound is far slower and sits within the psych/doom/stoner genres but this short and snappy number pulls from the classic stylings of thrash, in terms of both the instrumental composition and the theme of the lyrics (going insane, quite simply). With that in mind, we wanted to find a suitably typical location for the video in line with the sort of imagery that you often see in metal videos, and so the ruins of an old abbey seemed perfectly fitting.
When lockdown eases do you plan to shoot another music video featuring the other members of the band? If so, can you tell us more about it?
Yes! We are currently in the process of conceptualising a video for the opening track of our debut release, ‘Control’. At just under ten minutes long, we are looking at either creating a bit of a short film type of video or opting for creating a video for a radio edit of the song. So far we can’t tell you too much about the ideas we have for it but we can promise that it will be spectacular!
What’s the story and meaning behind the concept for (In)Sanity?
The song came together quite quickly during one rehearsal in Jan 2017. We were jamming to guitarist Roy’s new riffs that were undeniably much faster and thrashier than anything we’d previously created, and so we were having some fun with it and not taking it too seriously. After a few run troughs, it began to grow on us and so we decided to roll with what has now become our favourite song to finish live shows with as it’s so high in energy and makes for a great way to go out with a bang, so to speak.
However, I was experiencing a bit of writer’s block, and it wasn’t until Roy said to me “You’ve just been dumped, why don’t you write about that?”. Still feeling raw from the recent breakup, I wasn’t so keen on writing a straight-up breakup song, and instead pulled from one of the classic themes found in Thrash; Losing your grip on your sanity. Within ten minutes I’d written eight verses of absolute clichés relating to going mad, threw in a chorus and an outro, and that was that the song was in the bag!
The video was shot by photographer and videographer Ryan Whitwell of Shotison Media, who has shot you live with your other projects, are you guys friends and how did the collaboration happen?
We’ve known Ryan for a number of years, as someone who is a passionate supporter of the scene as well as being a fantastic photographer. I have lost count of how many shows of ours he has been to! He has definitely become a friend and we knew we could trust him to create something awesome for our first video.
We will be working with him again for the next one, and hopefully for a long time to come. His work ethic is incredibly admirable and his creative eye combined with his genuine love for music makes for someone who is both pleasurable and inspirational to work with.
Your debut album is released later this month, can you tell us the concept behind it and the meaning of the name ‘Panacea’?
Our debut doesn’t have so much of a fluid concept, but as it features songs that I’ve written about my own mental health challenges as well as songs about somewhat unsavoury figures as seen throughout past centuries (or, “assholes of History” as we like to say), it organically became something of a commentary on how psychopathic and tyrannical men in power can and do have an adverse effect on the mental wellbeing of the very society they are supposed to be working for and supporting.
The title ‘Panacea’ was the name we settled on after mulling over dozens of options and realising that it was the most appropriate for this record; Panacea quite simply means ‘a cure all’, and during the process of recording and mixing/mastering this record, we were all struggling with one thing or another in our lives. It was our music that kept us going (as cheesy and unoriginal as that may sound haha), and so this record became our cure-all.
Do you have a favourite track from the album? If so, why does it stand out to you?
‘Control’ was the song that took us the longest to finalise and the lyrics I ended up using was written at a time when my mental health was particularly bad. I had originally written a song about another “Asshole of History” but after a few months of trying to make the lyrics work with Roy’s riffs, I scrapped it and for the first time, I wrote about my health struggles in an extremely raw and vulnerable manner. When we first started performing it, I very much still felt the way I had described in the lyrics; like an imposter in every sense, as if I would never overcome the psychological challenges I’d been facing for so many years, and very close to giving up.
Over the years, I have worked hard to heal and relearn how to love myself so that I can create a less painful life for myself, and so whenever I perform it now, I feel so intensely emotional; Every time I have to sing those words, it is a reminder of how far I have come, but also takes me straight back to how much pain I have endured over the years and how close I have come to not being here today. It’s an incredibly bittersweet experience but it makes me feel alive, so thankful and proud of all that I have achieved.
Are you involved in the writing process of the music and lyrics? If so, where do you draw your influences from when it comes to producing new music & lyrics?
I write all of my lyrics and the melodies, and I leave the composition of the rest of the song up to the rest of the band. Guitarist Roy listens to a lot of classic Middle Eastern and African rock and those influences can definitely be heard in the riffs he creates. Drummer James and Bassist Alex both play in metal bands (tech death/black/grindcore) and their technical skills are enthusiastically reflected in what they contribute to our sound.
As for me, I’m quite partial to history and philosophy so I do enjoy researching specific figures from history who were scandalous or unpleasant in some way or another and creating songs about them. More recently I have started to write about mental illness, inspired by my own experiences, and in the last year, I finally started to feel comfortable with writing about past romantic relationships (they have mostly been pretty traumatising!).
How did you meet your present bandmates and decide to create ‘Satlan’?
Back in the spring of 2015 whilst dating someone named Vince, I expressed to him that I was interested in creating an all-female doom metal band of sorts but he loved my idea so much that he enthusiastically insisted that he played bass in the band and so the all-female idea when out of the window, which in retrospect I’m kind of happy with (it may have been too limiting and potentially seen as a gimmick if I’d stuck with that idea). Within days of advertising for a guitarist and drummer, Roy Nadel responded. We met for a chat and invited him on board.
Over the years, we changed our drummer multiple times as we struggled to find the right fit for the sound we’d started to create, and Vince also left the band after our second show in October 2016, which eventually resulted in us having Roy’s old friend Alex on board as a temporary fill-in due to the fact that he was so busy with multiple other projects as a drummer.
However, sometime in 2018, he joined the band permanently, and it was that same year that James Loh joined on drums after Alex played a show with him in one of his other bands and was impressed by his skill, thus completing our current lineup.
What’s the meaning behind the name ‘Satlan?’
‘Satlan’ is the Hebrew word for ‘stoner’! As much as we prefer to steer away from stoner/doom clichés when we decided to change our name in 2018, it was Roy who suggested we went for ‘Satlan’; He explained that ever since he was a weed-smoking teenager in Israel, he had dreamed of one day having a band called Satlan, and so we decided to make that dream come true for him haha!
Plus it looks like ‘Satan’ and we couldn’t resist the opportunity to sign off with ‘HAIL SATLAN’ at any given opportunity.
You’ve previously been in other doom metal bands, what has been your most favourite memory from being a metal vocalist?
I was incredibly lucky to be invited to join Dead Witches as their vocalist back in 2017, as my two years with them gave me some awesome memories. To have the opportunity to play Desertfest in 2018, along with shows in some of my favourite German cities as well as headlining a festival situated amongst a spectacular hilly landscape in Austria is something I’ll be eternally grateful for, not to mention getting to record at Chuckalumba studios, where Electric Wizard’s ‘Dopethrone’ and ‘Let us Prey’ were also birthed!
However, my favourite memory is probably my first touring experience, which was a four-date jig across Ireland over the Easter Bank Holiday in 2019. The guys of Elder Druid did an incredible job of organising the shows, all of which were practically sold out and packed full of some of the best humans we could have played for/with. My mental health was incredibly poor during my time with the band as I was participating in intensive therapeutic activities at the time and facing a lot of adversity in life, and so I eventually had to leave the band at the end of 2019, but I am so appreciative of all that we experienced together, not forgetting the killer album we released too!
I learned a lot about myself and others during those two years, so I’m very thankful for those lessons.
How did you know you wanted to become a vocalist and join/start a doom metal band?
The entirety of my adult life and the majority of my adolescence has seen me struggle implicitly with my identity (part and parcel of the mental disorders I live with) but singing is something I have never questioned; I have sung for as long as I have been able to create memories, and although I have questioned whether or not I am good enough or deserving of the opportunities I have/have had in music, more times than I care to remember, I have never doubted that I am supposed to be singing in some capacity or another. It comes as naturally to me as breathing does, and I could never imagine my life without being able to sing. It’s probably about time I quit smoking really, isn’t it? Haha.
Creating a doom band was something of a whim to be honest, as it happened to be what I was listening to quite a lot at the time of the band’s inception (my tastes are super broad and I’m by no means a superfan of any one genre/set of genres/subculture of music- dipping my toes in lots of them is much more fun!) and so here I am, making doom/stoner/psych//prog/rock and roll…. Whatever it is we do! It’s pretty wonderful.
Were you always into music growing up? Did you have a metal background?
Yes! Thanks to my dad, I was raised on a soundtrack of 80’s Thrash/NWOBHM, the likes of Led Zeppelin, a modest dose of Country and Western, and a very generous dollop of my dad’s favourites: Pink Floyd! Having musician grandparents and a drummer/ music lover for a dad meant that my interest in music came naturally, and by my teens I was going to metal shows, dabbling in singing for cover bands in college and beyond, and then my tastes began to organically expand by my early twenties.
I was often found at open mic nights or entering singing competitions, usually with the support of my dad. I’ve picked up a few instruments over the years but haven’t had the discipline to become good at anything!
Although I am relearning how to play the guitar at the moment, and have my eye on a handsome looking Yamaha keyboard as I’d really love to continue learning how to play the piano sometime too.+
You’ve recently come out as ‘non-binary’, do you find the music industry supports LGBTQ+ rights?
The music industry as a whole is certainly wise to at least be seen as being supportive of the LGBTQIA+ community and the artists to come out of it. I think it is a lot easier than it used to be, to be simultaneously ‘out’ and attempting to progress within the industry, although it is evident that in certain sectors of the music industry, artists are still being forced to conceal their true sexualities and gender identities as per directed by their management/labels. We have come a long way but there is still work to be done, and I doubt that will change for a very long time.
Do you find there is still sexism remaining in the music industry? Especially within the ‘doom metal’ genre?
Of course! In the same sense that we still have a long way to go with LGBTQIA+ rights, there are still miles of room for progression regarding gender equality in the music industry.
Again, things have marginally improved in the time that I have been alive, for example, but the differences between how a male-presenting and female-presenting person in the music industry are treated, regardless of genre, are still so apparent and felt every day. The automatic sexualisation/objectification of female-presenting people in music may never completely go away (along with the additional scrutiny female-presenting musicians are often faced with insofar as technical ability) but we can continue to make progress.
If a female-presenting person wants to embrace their sexuality and sensual prowess on stage then awesome, it’s a powerful and empowering form of expression but it should not be forced upon or expected of ALL female-presenting people by default. The key is choice and at the end of the day, it is choice that is a foundational element of Feminism.
What is the music scene like where you are based in London, has the Covid pandemic affected you as a band as well as personally?
The doom community in London consists of some of the loveliest people, from band members to promoters/venue managers and photographers and fans alike. I’m pretty stoked to be a part of it, to be honest. The passion, support and (generally speaking) authenticity that exudes from the humans that comprise the London scene is heart-warming and inspiring. I have long struggled to feel connected to others (and it’s something I am still working on) but I feel relatively safe in this scene. I wouldn’t say I’m all that active in it apart from what I do with Satlan, but it’s the best way for me to be for the sake of my health. I strive to be a positive contribution to our scene, individually and as a band, and so I can only hope that is the case.
The pandemic gave us as a band the time we needed to regroup and finally get our debut released, along with finally sorting out various other integral elements. In addition, and despite having not had that music time in rehearsal together over the year, we have made a huge amount of progress with writing our second release and can realistically expect to be in the studio with that sometime next year! I think a lot of bands will agree that whilst we have suffered in some ways because of this pandemic, the break away from the norm has brought about a number of positives too.
Now to see how things pan out over the next year or so as we start to return to a ‘new normal’, and in light of the changes that leaving the EU has also brought about.
You change your look and style a lot, do you think image is important when being in a band?
It is undeniable that audiences respond well to a band that looks as well as sounds great. It is also a really enjoyable creative outlet and form of expression and so I think that as artists, we should embrace that and have fun with it! But not all musicians are wired that way, and not all fans of music will really care what their favourite musicians look like, and that’s perfectly okay.
I’m nowhere near as experimental as I would like to be with my image, but if I had the budget for it, along with the mental stability that would afford me the time I’d need to devote to devising stage outfits, then I absolutely would! However, where there’s a will, there’s a way, and so I’m excited to see what directions I take my stage fashions in once we hit the stage again this year.
What are your plans for the rest of 2021 now lockdown is lifting? Do you guys have any upcoming gigs? Is there anywhere, in particular, you’d like to play?
We are returning to regular rehearsals in July, we have several gigs booked for this year already, including two in Camden, London in July (15th at the Black Heart and the 24th at the Devonshire Arms) and a very exciting show at the end of September that will soon be announced. We would love to play at Desertfest in 2022 (and pretty much any festivals that will have us to be honest!)
So we are sitting pretty, waiting for our invite (hint hint).
Are you guys signed to a label and do you think it’s important for a band to be signed to be recognised in today’s society?
I think that being signed to a supportive and well-respected label is pretty important in order to create opportunity and open doors as well as make certain processes a lot easier.
We aren’t currently signed but we are on the lookout for a label at the moment.
What genres of music do you like to listen to personally?
In all honesty, there aren’t many genres I don’t listen to! However, on regular rotation at the moment is a lot of gritty, female-led and modern RnB, Dark/Synthwave, Techno, EBM, Hardcore, Sludge, Lo-Fi Hip Hop, Classical, Electropop, 80’s/90’s ballads and a dash of NWOBHM.
What advice would you give someone wanting to start a band?
Only do it if you really love it. Lower your expectations all the way down to zero, nothing is guaranteed no matter how good you think you are or how hard you work. So achieve mindful presence, get comfy right in every present moment you find yourself in, enjoy everything you do, and you’ll regret none of it.
What are the pro’s/cons of being in a band? Do you guys always get on? Have you always got on with members from your previous band projects?
The main pro is getting to create with talented and wonderfully decent humans, for sure. I love collaborating and creating something we can collectively feel accomplished about. The main con has to be trying to organise ourselves to get things done!
We all have other things going on in our lives and so that can be challenging at the best of times and outright infuriating at the worst of times. But the pros outweigh the cons, and we are incredibly lucky in the sense that we all get along well and have a lot of love and respect for one another, so for that, I am very thankful.
Being in Dead Witches was more challenging because of certain band members but without those challenges, I wouldn’t be the person I am today so I’m equally thankful for those lessons.
If you could only have 3 albums to listen to, what would they be and why?
I couldn’t possibly answer this question! This isn’t meant to be a flex but, as a way to explain why I can’t answer this, I apparently listened to over 2000 different artists on Spotify last year. So yeah, I can’t choose just three albums I’m afraid! My tastes are far too broad and ever-evolving for that. Definitely sounded like a flex or some sort of not-so-humble brag or something, haha!
Thank you for your time, is there anything you’d like to say to our readers?
Thank you for supporting us, we are so appreciative of being able to create music that we enjoy and we only hope to be able to continue doing this for a good amount of time to come!
Our debut will be available digitally on the 31st May 2021 and we can’t wait to hit the stage again!
You can watch the music video of (In)Sanity here: