There are many hard rock and metal bands around these days who utilize the skills and talents of powerful female vocalists. It is a trend that has brought a new tone and look to these usually testosterone-laden genres. But as with other fashionable novelties of the past and present, for every originator there are many imitators.
Thus far, in the six years since co-founding Los Angeles-based industrial, melodic metal band Edge of Paradise, vocalist/songwriter Margarita Monet has managed to carve out a unique space in this ever-crowding female-led band scene, thanks to her uniquely soaring voice – one that owes more to the Broadway stage than the mosh pit – and for her thoughtful and insightful lyrics, which are seemingly overly jaded and angst-ridden, but are actually infused with emotional depth and complexity.
“You know it’s funny, when we started we didn’t know that it was a trend to have female singers. But within a few years it was like, oh my God, everybody has a girl in their band now. I never really imagined being in a band, so I never really paid attention to this trend or the music scene in general. To me the whole experience was brand new and I didn’t know that it was a big thing to be a girl in a metal band,” Monet said from her home in the City of Angels.
Edge of Paradise released its latest EP, the five-song masterpiece Alive, on March 10, which includes the titanic title track, which sees Monet coming into her stride as both a composer of memorable metal melodies and a deft lyricist. The album was produced by industry veteran Chuck Johnson (Korn, Slipknot).
“It is kind of me expressing my frustration and cynicism about the times we’re living in. It’s not like that on all the songs on this EP; the song Mystery has a hopeful tone to it as well, but you’re right about the overall feel to the EP. The whole idea behind it was that we live in this world and our lives are so consumed with our lifestyles and having the latest things and watching the latest shows and the mechanism of our life seems to be guided by this corporate-led machine, and we are a part of that because we are so plugged in and such consumers of technology,” she said, adding that what she is observing in the modern world is that human beings are not living, just existing – and for what purpose?
“Alive was the first song I wrote for the EP and what inspired me to write it was I came home one day and just realized that we don’t really notice that we’re alive some days. When do we ever stop and take a deep breath and acknowledge nature and acknowledge other people and really appreciate the world and the people around us? And I think it’s happening less and less, especially talking to people, because we use all this social media and virtual reality stuff; there’s not as much personal contact which is sad and scary because people learn from each other through those interpersonal experiences and building real relationships. I see that less and less and it’s scary because we really are being taken over by machines.
“But I hope that the message people get is to do something about it. I believe that even if one person just does a very small change it can make a difference. Call their friends, smile and acknowledge people you see on the street or even just be thankful for even breathing because we are so lucky to be alive on this planet in this giant universe. Maybe we’re not the only ones in it, but for now we’re pretty lucky to be human beings experiencing life on this Earth. So I hope that these songs wake people up a little bit. I think that it’s still up to the people; it’s not up to these huge corporations. They can lead us astray and stir us up to a certain point but it’s still up to the people to decide their fate. I want to encourage people to realize that we still need to hold on to our basic humanity.”
Monet was born in Russia and moved from Europe to the United States as a kid, eventually settling in Houston, Texas where she attended a special school for the performing and visual arts. A natural and truly gifted performer across a variety of milieu, Monet migrated to the cultural capital of the USA, New York City, where she enrolled into the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University where she majored in theatre and minored in piano performance. Her move to a career in music happened while living and studying in the Big Apple, as besides appearing in some off-Broadway shows and some indie films, Monet also began singing with local bands in the vibrant local club scene. But at some point, she felt destiny was calling her to the other side of the continent – Los Angeles more specifically – in 2010.
“I was always a performer, but I was never really a singer. I was a classical pianist first and then I got into theatre, so when I first moved out here to Los Angeles I was open to try anything. And honestly I didn’t have a real reason to come here other than something told me good things would happen, and they did; so I guess things do happen for a reason. It was a good experience overall being in New York, but I think I actually learned more about entertaining and even just living out in the city than I did actually going to school. In L.A. I got into this dance group and this producer came along and he said he wanted to turn us into the Pussycat Dolls and I was not into that,” she explained.
“But he then approached me and said the he also had this rock project and he wanted to write a rock song, and I always liked that kind of music. So I helped him compose it because of my background in piano. We were looking for a great guitar player and literally stumbled across Dave [Bates] who was doing a guitar clinic in a music store that was right next to the studio where we were working. I think we needed some cables or something and he was just there playing when we walked in. The producer thought he was just some guy hanging around the store, but he and I started talking and afterward Dave told me the he wanted to work with me the moment he first saw me.”
Bates has an impressive musical pedigree, touring and recording with the likes of Robin McAuley (MSG, Survivor), The Firm and Blue Murder’s Tony Franklin, and drummer extraordinaire Gregg Bissonette (David Lee Roth, Ringo Starr, Steve Vai) among others. At the time of his serendipitous meeting with Monet, he was trying to revive a musical project that had suddenly seemed like it was dead.
“We put out the CD Mask just a few months after we decided to form the band Edge of Paradise and it ties in to how the band actually came together. Dave was in a band with Robin McAuley, Gregg Bissonette and Tony Franklin and they recorded a bunch of music together, but Robin got a gig touring with Survivor in 2010 and Gregg went off to tour with Ringo Starr. So basically the band fell apart and they had all this unreleased music left over. When we met we were working on that other project for the producer and I guess because we had a similar vision we decided to form this new band and I just re-sang those other songs. I didn’t write anything for Mask, so that’s why it sounds almost like a totally different band than the music we’re doing now, but it’s still a good album,” Monet said.
“We spent a couple of years looking for other band members because it’s hard to put a band together and find people who are really committed. We want to take this all the way right from the very beginning. Mask was a good foundation to build on, but we really needed to find our own songs, so that took us a little time. And it was frustrating because we were still learning how to write music together.”
Bates and Monet scored a big break when one of their original compositions, In A Dream, caught the attention of legendary German-born heavy metal producer/engineer Michael Wagener, whose pedigree includes working with the likes of Accept (for whom he was the original guitarist), Dokken, Metallica (he mixed Master of Puppets), Motley Crue, Poison, Megadeth, Ozzy and Skid Row among many others.
“We felt like we needed someone amazing to mix this song because this would be our first music with Dave and I writing together, and we wanted it to be able to compete with everything else that was out there. We wanted to make a statement. Dave grew up listening to Michael’s work and he is a big fan. I think we were sitting in Starbucks one day wondering who we could possibly get and we thought of Michael, figuring he would probably never even answer us. We thought that it couldn’t hurt to try so we just emailed Michael and he responded the same day,” Money explained.
“I guess he thought it was interesting with a girl singing and I was singing really high and he was like, ‘I don’t often hear that,’ and he said he liked it. And we became friends too. He is such a nice guy and his studio is phenomenal and it’s unbelievable to think of what he created there, so we knew we just had to record there.”
The result of the collaboration was Perfect Shade of Black, which came out in 2014. As well as working with Wagener, the band also collaborated with Bob Kulick (Kiss, Motorhead), adding to the songs from the previous EP to create the second full-length Edge of Paradise album, Immortal Waltz, released in 2015.
Along the way, the band finally solidified its lineup with the addition of bassist Nick Ericson and drummer John Chominsky.
“They joined us about three years ago and it’s been so good to have them in the band. We met Nick while we were recording at Bob Kulick’s studio and he was an intern there. John was his friend and they had been playing together for years, so we were able to bring them in together. They’re great musicians and we all get along together, which is so important when you spend so much time together in the studio, and especially on the road,” Monet said.
Speaking of the road, Edge of Paradise is hoping to break the surly bonds of North America and hit stages throughout Europe and perhaps even South America. Thus far the band has performed in 30 U.S. States and will also add to that with their forthcoming tour in support of Alive.
“We are still working on booking shows and will be announcing them in April. I know that this summer we will tour the U.S.A. and in September we are going to a festival in Europe and are planning to book more shows then, especially in Germany and Sweden where I know we have a lot of fans. South America is on the radar and so is Canada. I really want to play in Canada because I have a lot of family in Montreal. I love it up there,” she said.
For more information on Edge of Paradise, their upcoming tour and the Alive EP, visit www.edgeofparadiseband.com.
- Jim Barber is a veteran award-winning journalist and author based in Napanee, ON, who has been writing about music and musicians for a quarter of a century. Besides his journalistic endeavours, he now works as a communications and marketing specialist. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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