DATE OF INTERVIEW:
6th July 2015
METAL DISCOVERY: Congratulations on the new album; I think it’s a very powerful, strong record. How pleased are you with how it all turned out?
CATERINA: Hi! Thank you. I’m very pleased with the final product. Every time Timo sent me one of the demo versions of the songs I was excited about what I could do with them, about imprinting my style to them, and we were very well synchronized as to how we wanted the songs to sound, so I’m very happy about this record.
(Caterina Nix on approaching her vocals for 'Chaos Magic')
"I wanted to have a unique sound, very light, almost otherworldly and ethereal, but also powerful and almost pop at times... It’s hard to be an innovator in music these days, but I did my best to find and portray my own sound."
Interview by Mark Holmes
Official Caterina Nix Website:
CHAOS MAGIC DISCOGRAPHY
Chaos Magic (2015)
Although fronting her own band, Aghonya, in her home city of Santiago, which saw the release of just one album, 'Oxygen', some seven years ago, and contributing vocals to two tracks on Timo Tolkki's sophomore Avalon album last year, Chilean singer Caterina Nix will be a new name to many. However, that's all set to change in 2015 with the release of 'Chaos Magic', the eponymously titled album from a new project that sees her collaborate, once again, with the ex-Stratovarius guitarist/composer. Showcasing her wide ranging, stylistically diverse voice in all its captivatingly charming glory, her singing provides the perfect pairing with Timo's melodically motivated music, enriching his compositions with a sincere passion and naturally affective depth that elicits ardent allure in each and every song. Metal Discovery quizzed this talented South American lady about 'Chaos Magic' and her rather magnificent voice...
Caterina Nix - promo shot
Photograph copyright © 2013 Uncredited
Official Caterina Nix Facebook:
Thanks to Gary Levermore for arranging the interview.
MD: Have you been receiving a lot of positive feedback and reviews so far?
CATERINA: Well, there has been positive and negative feedback, but I’m not surprised. A lot of Timo’s fans are expecting him to keep on writing the Stratovarius kind of music he wrote 20 years ago, and if they listen to this record with that kind of prejudice, they’re not gonna find what they’re looking for. On the other hand, experts’ reviews have been very good, and my fans have really loved the album and that makes me extremely happy. I focus on the positive.
MD: I gather you originally met Timo at a Stratovarius meet-and-greet in Chile a few years ago, and you’ve stayed in touch over the years, contributed vocals on two tracks for his last Avalon album, but did you ever dream that, one day, you might get to make an entire album with him?
CATERINA: This is truly a dream come true for me. Growing up, I used to picture myself up on a big stage, singing, reaching something great. This has brought me closer to my heaven; I feel blessed, especially if we consider that I am far from Europe, which is the core of this kind of music, so having a Latina in this position is a special, rare thing. I was very surprised and totally thrilled when Frontiers picked me for the job.
MD: It states in press materials that Frontiers Records chose you to record a solo album, so did they approach you with the idea first, or did Timo and yourself already have the idea to do something together?
CATERINA: We had the idea of working together a few years back, but we were able to materialize this when Frontiers came up with the idea of having a female singer release a solo album written and produced by Timo. So he proposed my name along with the names of other singers and Frontiers finally picked me.
MD: I gather you composed remotely - Timo in Finland, you in Chile - so were lots of Skype sessions involved, and did the physical distance ever prove to be a problem when working on material?
CATERINA: It was great, we made it work perfectly. I thought it would be harder and that many things would be lost in translation, hahaha. But, no, it was actually easy, we worked by email, he sent me the demos, and I would send him the songs sung by me back via email. Yet, we had a clear vision on how the album should sound like and that was our starting point. Thankfully, he was happy with how I delivered.
MD: Did you record your vocals remotely too, or did you manage to get in the studio with Timo?
CATERINA: He was in Finland and I was in Chile. I recorded the vocals here at a friend’s studio and we sent the tracks back to Timo. As easy as it sounds. Then he made all the engineering.
MD: How did you come up with the name for the project and album; do you actually follow and believe in any of the principles of chaos magic?
CATERINA: I have a special set of spiritual beliefs. I think we are energy, we create and receive energy and that you can touch the creative consciousness (God) because you are part of the universe. So either if you’re praying to this God or that God, however you call it, you’re connecting with this universal energy. I feel it when I’m out in nature, when I connect with the power of earth and wilderness. We can call these flows of energy by different names but the way I see it, we’re part of a bigger energetic map that involves all us creatures.
MD: The album opens with an extremely positive track, ‘I’m Alive’, which seems to be a very optimistic celebration of life, despite what negativity might be thrown at you. Do you generally have a positive outlook in your day-to-day life?
CATERINA: Absolutely. I try to stay positive always, even when I feel like there’s negativity being thrown at me. We need to know how much we are worth and that that doesn’t depend on other people’s opinion. Life is ours, happiness is up to us, and we should never let anyone bring us down. EVER. There’s a lot of sick people out there who hide behind a computer screen and try to expiate their frustrations by trying to destroy others and I pity them. It can’t be easy to live with that kind of negativity. But we must carry on and focus on being happy, regardless of the obstacles.
MD: You made a video for ‘I’m Alive’, which is very minimalist but also very effective. Is the move from the decaying, abandoned building to the more beautiful scenery supposed to represent the optimism theme of the song?
CATERINA: Exactly. I’m glad the message came across so easily. We wanted to make something very simple, easy to understand. You can be in the rubble and the dirt, but if you put your heart to it, you can achieve your goals, you can succeed. The message is positive and relatable, because we have all been there… down in the rubble.
MD: I think the most epic sounding track on the album is ‘Passionflow’, and you seem to be playing the role of some sort of temptress here with lines like: “Stare into my eyes of fire, captivating you forever”. How should this song be interpreted?
CATERINA: This is actually one of my favorite tracks of the album. I loved the character, I imagine her as an ancient deity who has been trapped for centuries and now she’s free and she’s a total femme fatale. This theme is new for me, never had sung a song with this kind of subject and I find it sexy and alluring. I liked it.
MD: The melodies in your vocal lines are incredibly strong and totally captivating too. Did you have to work hard when writing the vocal lines or did the melodies come fairly naturally?
CATERINA: Actually, this time, Timo wrote the vocal lines and the music, as well as the lyrics. I just made a few changes and owned the vocal lines imprinting my own style. I really loved the challenge, some of the songs make me go from chest voice to head voice in a split second but, although they’re quite high, I never wanted to sound operatic; I think that could have stripped the vocals from their purity. Just my humble point of view. Hopefully, if there’s a second album, I will be able to show my own compositions.
MD: There’s a lot of passion that comes across through your vocals, which sounds very honest and natural. Was it easy for you to get in the zone and feel the emotions of the music?
CATERINA: Thank you! Yes, this kind of music is very comforting and relatable for me so I was delighted when I sang the songs and I knew the outcome would bring a natural enveloping aura. I connected with the songs right away and I even came up with a few names for the songs.
MD: Although your voice always sounds very natural, I gather you’ve had some vocal training in the past, so are you conscious to make sure you don’t rely too heavily on vocal techniques so that you can maintain that natural quality to your voice?
CATERINA: Absolutely, I wanted to have a unique sound, very light, almost otherworldly and ethereal, but also powerful and almost pop at times. I do have vocal training and I don’t want to sound like anyone else. As much as I love the voices of the big icons of this music genre (Simone, Floor, Tarja, Sharon) I absolutely did not want to sound like any of them. It’s hard to be an innovator in music these days, but I did my best to find and portray my own sound.
MD: There’s a nice little inflection in your vocals at the end of a lot of lines you sing, where your voice seems to rise up an octave, just for a split second. Is that a subconscious thing you’re doing with your voice there?
CATERINA: These are the best questions anyone has asked me so far :) That’s completely deliberate, just a little quirk to set myself apart, but of course I do things that come more naturally to me. You have to sing comfortably otherwise you jeopardize your voice.
MD: You have a great range in your voice too, in terms of both pitch and style through pop, rock, metal and classical modes of singing. But are there any hidden depths to your voice that we’ve maybe not heard yet, and do you regard yourself as always developing as a vocalist and discovering new qualities with your voice?
CATERINA: Thank you! I try to work lot on that, just singing in the shower, creating things, exploring my voice. In this record you only get to see a few colors of the palette, but there’s more. I have some strangely velvety low tones that I hardly ever use, but I hope I get to show more in upcoming projects.
MD: I gather you have a very respectable career working as an attorney but is it your dream to pursue music full-time, or do you have as much passion for law as you do your music?
CATERINA: Hahahaha, well, no attorney is respectable, hahaha. No, really, I work for a loss adjustment company specializing in liability, but my true passion is music. If I could dedicate myself to music 24/7 it would be amazing but, unfortunately, we need money to live and, well, my day job is my sustenance, but singing is my true calling.
MD: The business side of the music industry can be a very precarious one, so does having a background in law make you more wise and wary of the various pitfalls you might encounter as a musician?
CATERINA: I think it helps, it does make you more aware if someone is not being honest with you or if someone is trying to do shady things behind your back. So far, I haven’t had to go all lawyer bitch on anyone, hahahha, especially because Frontiers Records is a respectable label and they do everything with transparence. Working with them has been a delight.
MD: Do you have any plans to take Chaos Magic to the stage for some live shows?
CATERINA: Yes I do, I’m planning a few shows here in Chile (without Timo for the moment) and, if the album does well, maybe I could book some international shows. Just hoping for the best, I would be so happy to play in festivals across Europe or USA, I never stop dreaming.
MD: Finally, in the spirit of the optimism of ‘I’m Alive’, what makes you most happy in life?
CATERINA: I’m a very simple person, I enjoy singing and creating music, being in love and being loved, spending time with my family and with my pets (I have a thing for cats…and any other pet I can get my hands on!), I love helping animals in need, working out and eating something delicious in good company and, of course… shopping, hahahah.