As unintended as the fact of being the first ever all-female Death Doom Metal band to grind down the face of the earth, as great the effect was and still is of DERKETA forming in the late 80s. Far from any gender related clichés and whatnot, the Pittsburgh-based four piece managed to stick to their own selves and finally reformed in 2006 after disbanding in 1991. Keeping alive their original sound, DERKETA are currently working on new material and tomorrow night will join in the ongoing Decibel Magazine Tour featuring NOISEM, GOREGUTS, THE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER and some old friends of DERKETA’s – CARCASS.
Thus its about time to have some serious talk with vocalist/guitarist and founding member Sharon Bascovsky.
DERKETA 2014: Mike Laughlin on drums, Sharon Bascovsky, Robin Mazen on bass & Mary Bielich on guitars
You started as an all female band back in 1988, when both Death and Doom were in an infant state – how did the members of DERKETA get into that kind of sound?
It was a natural progression from Classic Rock, to Heavy Metal, to Thrash Metal, then to Death and Doom Metal. Our friends would have parties and people would bring along cassettes from tape trading and that is how we got exposed to it all. Once I heard doom and death metal, that is the genre that grabbed my attention and started my passion for it.
Having only female musicians was that something that just happened or was it an actual decision?
It just happened that way. I started playing guitar in 1985 and got bored with learning song covers and started writing my own music. I met Terri, who later became the drummer, at a party and her and I became friends. I had mentioned to her that I was thinking of starting a band and she said she wanted to do the same. She bought a drum set and took some lessons, then we started jamming together just as friends and did some recordings. It wasn’t until people started to ask us to play out live is when we started looking for other members and once we started asking our friends if they knew of anyone, they would refer other females that they knew played. It was more of our friends liking the idea of us being an all female band and the way we saw it, it was whoever was willing and able to do it. It wasn’t that we specifically wanted females to join. At one point Don Crotsley, the singer of NUN SLAUGHTER, was playing bass with us. He had met Mary Bielich at a party, found out she was going to college for bass, and suggested that we replace him with her because she is an amazing bassist. Throughout the years I’ve worked with both males and females, but originally it was just me and Terri so we became known as the first all female Death Metal band. We eventually reformed the original lineup in 2006 to work on recording “In Death We Meet” but since then Terri quit due to time restraints. We now have Mike Laughlin on drums, he’s played with CATTLE DECIPATIATION and CREATION IS CRUCIFIXION, and that has been going well. He’s been with us for about 2 years now.
How would you depict the ups and downs of being a bunch of girls in a very much male dominated environment, has that ever make you doubt about “doing the right thing”?
We’ve only encountered the negative “female band” thing outside of Pittsburgh. Here, it is very common for women to be involved in extreme metal, ever since the 80’s, so we were never treated strange or looked down on here. Once we became in contact with people all around the world, we did encounter some “odd” behavior from the guys, either thinking we were just doing it to meet guys or just plain insults that we were women and didn’t belong in the Death Metal scene. There wasn’t a lot of it, most of our peers were into it, but there were some and ive become numb towards negative opinions. In the early days it would bother me cause I didn’t understand what their problem was about it. I mean, it’s just a band, ya know? And a guy doing Death Metal vocals is just as strange as a female doing it. Now I can care less and am not fazed by it. If you like us, then fine. If you don’t, that’s fine too. I’m too old to care what others think of me or the band. We’re having fun and that’s all that matters. But in all honesty, we’ve taken more heat from girls versus the guys mainly cutting down our looks, which is weird. Posting their opinions on how ugly they think we are, or starting strange rumors. Don’t get me wrong, we still get that from guys too but girls can be vicious and catty. After 26 years of various insults, I’m numb to that as well as ive never defined myself on my looks and that’s not what this band is about. Those would be the “downs” of being a female into Metal, the almighty judgment. The “ups” would just be the people that could give a shit that we’re female and shown us respect as a band/musician. The only benefit that I can see is people being curious on the female factor and they may have checked us out because of that. I’ve never had any doubts though; im doing what comes naturally to me and what I want to do.
Sharon – vocals & guitars
Sharon, you told me before that DERKETA hasn’t played outside the US up to this point – what are the reasons for that, specially with loads of people from overseas taken an interest in the band?
Well, we’re not sure how the interest would be for us over there. We self release our recordings and we simply can’t afford to travel too far away on our own unless a promoter pays for our expenses to do so. Trust me, we want to and we’re hoping that a promoter will have faith in us to bring us over while we’re still able to do it. We’re not getting any younger, not that age worries us, it’s the health problems that are bound to happen with aging…and of course, death. We are doing a 4 date tour in Mexico this September and we’re all extremely excited about that. We have some diehard fans there and we’re looking forward to meeting and performing for them. The other thing I worry about is keeping everyone’s drive up to continue. We’ve gotten good reviews and have just about sold out of the first pressing of “In Death We Meet”, merch sales have been good for us, so that has helped to keep our drive going for regular rehearsals and not be so casual about it all. Maybe in 2015 some overseas promoters will bring us over. I think playing some Euro fests would be the wise move as we’re not sure how well we’re known over there to do an actual tour on our own just yet.
Your full-length debut “In Death We Meet” was released in 2012. How soon can we expect a successor coming up?
We just recorded 2 songs for a 7” on Mind Cure Records, which is a local Pittsburgh record store. Theyre releasing a local band a month and I believe our release date is the end of May. The conditions to the 7” were one original song, which is called “Darkness Fades Life” and a cover song. We covered Sepultura’s “Troops of Doom” (MORBID VISION version).
We also had Ola Lindgren from GRAVE remix “In Death We Meet” because there were some things that I wasn’t 100% happy with and I wanted to fix them for the vinyl version. The remix is complete, Ola did a FANTASTIC job, exactly what I was looking for, so the vinyl should be released this summer, as well as a CD version since were almost sold out of the original pressing. There is no sense in repressing the original when the remix completely blows it away. We took our time on the remix, worked in between our schedules so it allowed us to give our ears a break which was a definite bonus.
I’m in the process of writing for our next full length album; which were hoping to record the end of this year, but its all about creativity and ideas so it all depends on how that goes. Its something that I can’t force to happen but I work on the songs daily. We’ve taken a step back from playing too many live shows this year so that I can focus on it. And of course, Ola will mix it at his Studio Soulless as he is the only Studio Engineer that I will work with from now on. It’s not that the other engineers ive worked with were bad in any way, it’s just that im particular on sounds and tones and not everybody agrees with me. Ola “gets” the sound and feel that im trying to accomplish with our songs and is extremely easy to work with. He also mixed our “Darkness Fades Life” 7”, and even played on it. As he was mixing, he was hearing some guitar notes in his head and asked if he could try them out on the recording. Those notes really enhanced the song and im excited for people to hear it. I highly recommend bands to work with him as he does have a true talent and they wont be disappointed with his work. I’ve heard other bands that he’s worked with that have a different style than Derketa so he is able to bring out bands in the way they need to be heard. I’m looking forward to working with him on our next recording and that has helped my drive to get the new material written.
What do you think of bands like ARCH ENEMY, HOLY MOSES or the likes with female vocalists?
As weird as it may sound, I don’t really put a focus on bands that have female musicians or vocalists. I guess since im a female, I don’t see it as weird or anything special, they’re just bands to me. I don’t have any desire to compete with any band/person, musically or vocally, so I don’t keep up with it all. I’ve heard a song from ARCH ENEMY and they’re too technical musically so im not really into them. I thought Angela’s vocals sounded too processed or something and think it would have been better if she went naturally as she does have a strong voice. But that’s just my vocal preference. When I perform, I don’t even want echo on my vocals, volume is the only thing I want to keep it raw and natural. I’ve heard of HOLY MOSES but have not actually heard their music. There are too many bands to keep up with so im sure im missing out on a lot. I’m am friends and a fan of FUNERUS and ACROSTICHON, both having female fronted members, I’m really into what they’re all about and doing but id like their music just the same if they were males. They both do a great job. I’m very picky about vocals in general, I don’t like the barking death metal vocals; I like words to be distinguishable.
Have you been inspired by any of the early all-girl groups such as THE PLEASURE SEEKERS, ROCK GODDESS or the famous RUNANWAYS?
No, it was never my intention to have an all female band, it just turned out that way because of a friendship, so there wasn’t any inspiration for that direction. In fact, I was a little turned off by some of the all female bands in the 80’s because of the glam era and members trying to look sexy and glamorous. I didn’t relate to that at all, it wasn’t and isn’t my personality. That goes for the guys that got dolled up too! My inspiration came from various bands growing up, the 70’s and 80’s era, just bands that wrote good music that captured me in some way. I was never a girly girl and always felt more like a peer to the boys, and when I would hear a song on the radio or see a concert, I knew that its something that I wanted to do and it had nothing to do with any female influence. I mean, I love Joan Jett, but if she didn’t exist, I still would be doing what im doing. Its not like a saw a female do it and then thought that if she can do it, I can do it too. You know? There have been lots of things that have inspired me throughout the years but none of it is gender related.
DERKETA live in 2013
On April 07 you will join in some old friends on stage for the ongoing Decibel Magazine tour – how do you feel about it?
Nervous and excited at the same time! Its going to be fun finally sharing a stage with CARCASS but I’m always a little nervous until we hit the stage and start playing. This is a great opportunity for us as we’ll be playing in front of a larger local crowd and we’re hoping that it will bring some awareness that Pittsburgh does have a local metal band scene.
And how come you didn’t jump onboard for the entire tour circle?
We weren’t asked to. Decibel Magazine selected a few cities to have a local opener and we were lucky to be one of the cities/bands that were asked.
Last but not least, is there anything else you’d like to share with the world, maybe some words for aspiring young lasses who’d like to kick some major arse the way you do?
Thank you for taking the time to send me this interview, I really enjoyed your questions! If people are interested in keeping up with what were doing, find us on Facebook as we update that regularly. As far as advice, don’t let guys or girls intimidate you in an attempt to prevent what you want to do. At some point, you will encounter it but you are only on this earth once. Those people don’t matter. Stay true to yourself, don’t try to compete with others, and do what comes naturally. You will not fail.
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