Her name has been an item for me for quite some time, after leaving SerpentCult and with the spawning of Death Penalty, Belgian beauty Michelle Nocon is back on the doom map. But our very first encounter is due to leading yet another brilliant band, Bathsheba, who just recently performed upon the initial joint venture of Feverdance Rituals & Occult Sabbath. Reason enough to have a little heart to heart with her now and dig deep into the depth. Actually I just want to know how soon she will return to the road so we can hang out again!
Michelle, which one of your current bands do you consider your main priority, Bathsheba or Death Penalty?
Bathsheba was born out of 4 members while Death Penalty is the project of Gaz Jennings.
Bathsheba promo picture
SerpentCult is now history for you, but let’s get back way beyond this: How did you get into heavy music and when did you join your first ever band?
I didn’t really have any friends who listened to metal when I was young, so I mainly picked up some stuff from my brother and I basically took my own road from there on. When I had my first boyfriend we formed a band for fun. He was a Metallica fan, so was I. He was a guitarist, I could sing a bit. Then when I got to know Frederick Cosemans in a metal bar, and with the dramatic ending of the Plague Of Gentlemen, it all really started for me. I had no idea really what the hell I was doing, I wasn’t even up for auditioning because I didn’t think I could deliver anything on vocals for that band… So it was in a way a bit of a funny coincidence that I was suddenly singing in SerpentCult. But yeah here we are.
Your voice is very versatile and strong in both clean and rough ranges – did you ever take singing lessons or how do you work on your vocals?
I took a few singing lessons with Floor Jansen because I felt like I was only able to sing high and sweet and I wanted more. Also, she’s an extremely good and versatile singer. At that time I wanted to learn the high-pitched heavy metal scream so I took a few lessons to learn the basics. And from there on I went my own road and am pretty much self-taught. I just try to expand and experiment. I love to be able to really express anything I am feeling, going from soft singing to screaming. When I make a vocal line I improvise and record and then perfect it. The more free I become the more creative I am in my vocals. I am also starting to discover vocals that inspire me, PJ Harvey for instance. I don’t think I’m a really good technical singer, but my power rather lies more in an open-mindedness.
Being active in bands and as a writer/promoter myself for ages now, I feel that women have to work so much harder to be accepted or even respected in this so-called tolerant scene – have you ever felt that the gender aspect is an issue for you in any way, be it on or off stage?
Well it’s double… To be honest I think most female fronted bands are shit, so I find it dreadful that Bathsheba is often referred to as a ‘female fronted band’ . It shouldn’t matter also, especially in metal. When you have female fronted bands it’s often more about image/beauty than music. I don’t like this at all. The result is having these 50-year-old male fans that still live in the basement with their mother, listening to only female fronted bands… Please no…
On the other hand I do believe Bathsheba is a respected band because we really don’t get on the same train as these female fronted bands. Of course being a female in this male world gives you power also. It’s more like charisma. You don’t have to be an ugly dumb woman, you can be a powerful one. I see myself as a musician rather than a female singer.
On stage with Death Penalty at Rise Above 25th Anniversary bash in London – picture by Ester Segarra
To get to a very current topic: After the terrorist attacks in Paris and now in Belgium – which concerns you directly as a Belgium citizen – has anything changed for you emotionally about getting on stage or are you afraid of further incidents?
I am not worried or surprised because this was bound to happen. And it will happen again. Even though I am completely against ISIS I dare say that I doubt that we know what is really happening in the world. We can only make our own little theories of course and we all believe in our own truth. There is also the inevitable fact that we’ve been exceeding the capacity of the earth for a long time. And so in a way I support depopulation. It’s is obviously sad that innocent people die but with how it’s going now, it is inevitable that more and more people will die because of disasters, famine, war, terrorism in all forms… This is how it has always been and how it will always be.
I know there’s an album in the making with Bathsheba – when is this set to be out and how does the songwriting progress look like within the band?
We will start recording end of May and the album will be out somewhere at the end of this year. Mostly the guys pass me some riffs, I record vocals over them and then we get together to determine the structure or change parts.
Any plans for a European tour with Bathsheba or Death Penalty for the near future?
At the moment we are just focussing on finishing the last song, recording and getting the album out. We are all very excited for this. The 10” has done already so much for us so we really want to get the album out and spread some more plagues.
Leviathan Speaks – Waiting for the sea to swallow us – Picture taken by Ryanne Kemmerling
There is yet another project of yours I’m really intrigued to learn more about, specially the listing of artists that you like (Blut aus Nord, Dodheimsgard, Tom Waits, Kate Bush, Khold, Gojira, Bad for Lashes, Chelsea Wolfe, Om, Sleep, Earth, Metallica, Danzig, Ulver) caught my attention. What can you tell about Leviathan Speaks that you lead as your alter ego The She Wolf?
Leviathan Speaks is something dear to me. I don’t really plan to do anything specific with it yet. This is mainly because of the following reason; It’s just me improvising, so in the recordings there are false notes, the rhythm can be off, there are background noises or metronomes. But I am closest to the music I make at the point that I’m creating it. So rerecording it to perfection would be silly. I wanted to make something as pure as possible. Something that gives me the opportunity to express myself, experiment, grow, discover,… No boundaries anything can happen there. It’s in a way a self discovering I’m willing to share.
I think She Wolf fits well as I’m a bit of a lone wolf and an untameable woman. The music represents this in a way I believe. The wolf woman is singing/moaning… It’s sometimes very naturalistic and animalistic. I’ve always had a great attachment with wolves and the moon, so wolf woman comes very natural to me. Becoming an animal in a sense in this kind of music is inevitable for me.
To get to the end: Which is the last record you bought?
The last record I bought was “Horrors Of 1999” from the band Ho99o9. Great stuff!
Anything else you’d like to share with the world?
Recognize No Authority
BATHSHEBA on Facebook
DEATH PENALTY on Facebook
LEVIATHAN SPEAKS on Facebook