Interview with THÜNNDRESS
Hello Sara! First of all, I would like to welcome you on Metalzone Hellas! So let's get started! You formed THE UNHOLY with Nuno Nightmare in 2011, and you had a demo release in 2013. There was significant support from the scene; the reviews were magnificent, your cd was released on Vinyl from Helle Mueller and his "Underground Power Records" label. You also had the chance to play at the KIT Festival in 2015. So everything looked ideal, and we were all expecting a full-length album finally from THE UNHOLY, but something happened. Before we go deeper into your band's history, do you want to tell me what happened at that time? I guess you had to deal with some line-up changes as well. Correct me if I am wrong!
Hello! First of all, let me thank you for the interview and support!
Yes, that's true, everything seemed ideal considering the feedback we got from metalheads all around the world after the demo got released. We also had a few invitations from labels for a full-length and solicitations to play here and there around Europe. The thing is that we always had problems finding the right people to fulfil the vision we have for this band. Not only did we need guys committed to stay and fight but also who could make a difference and add value to our work as a band, which is somewhat difficult considering there weren’t many musicians capable of pulling it off in our city. The very few that exist don’t really care about our brand of high-powered Heavy Metal.
We confirmed our show at Keep It True at the beginning of 2014, we were ecstatic when we got the message from Oliver asking us if we wanted to play there. Obviously, it was an objective of ours but we never thought it would come so soon if ever. However, Alex - who was our drummer at the time – left the band just a couple of weeks after that and we never managed to find someone who was even near his skill level. We did the show anyway but the band just wasn’t the same. Instead of spending a year working on the songs and building up a worthy show we basically spent a whole year trying to teach a guy how to play the drums… it was a tolling experience, we learned a lot but it also drained us. I’ll tell you this, the fact that we were able to give a somewhat competent performance at KIT is still an impressive feat to us, even more so than the reactions to our demo. There were times during that year that we feared we would just crash and burn on the KIT stage, but we hung in there and ended up pulling it off.
Right after the show, we tried to move along and start putting in the work so we could release our debut in a short amount of time, but things just didn’t work out and by the middle of 2016 we started looking for a new drummer which we ended up finding by the beginning of 2017. Once again we didn’t have many choices and started to realize that if we ever had to look for musicians again we just had to broaden our area of search. We did a couple of gigs with this new guy but after a while, you could tell this wasn’t going anywhere, so Nuno and I devised a plan which consisted of making a few changes in our personal lives in order to be able to rehearse far from home if we ever had to. That took us all of 2018 and the beginning of 2019 which was when we officially parted ways with that drummer and started looking for a new one, this time we specifically said that it didn’t matter if you lived in the North or South of Portugal, we just wanted to find someone.
So summing it up after the KIT show it was basically 4 years of trying to get a functional line-up together. It’s not only about finding people who are willing to play. Mainly it’s about finding guys who can perform the way we need them to. We probably could already have released a couple of records, if we lowered our expectations and just conformed to the situation… but that’s not our way of doing things. That’s why the demos sounded like they did because we just don’t settle for what’s easy or immediate. Doing something for the sake of it doesn’t motivate us, we want to push our own capabilities to the max and that’s the way it’s going to be because that’s what we’re all about.
I really appreciate all these details that you just shared with us in order to comprehend the difficulties that you had. So let's get back to the beginning, please give us a brief overview of the "birth" and the history of THE UNHOLY.
Nuno and I started playing by the end of 2007, we were just kids back then, and until 2011 we just couldn’t get a complete line-up to work on originals and go to a studio and start doing shows. We had this friend who mainly played the drums and was fairly older than us but we never got to close the line-up for a functional band. Fortunately, that happened some three years after we started, already with a new drummer, and so we prepared 3 originals to record in a DEMO by the end of the summer of 2013. As you’ve mentioned we had great feedback, sold every copy of the Demo CDs in less than two weeks, played around twenty or so shows in Portugal and also in Spain and Germany during the span of two years. We also released a Vinyl through Underground Power Records with the 3 demo tracks and 2 live from the studio bonus tracks (which also sold out – there were a few copies left in Keep It True but I think they have sold them all during our show)!
After KIT we just wandered in the desert for 4 years and that’s where we’re now.
What made you want to start a Heavy Metal band and who gave you the inspiration to sing?
Nuno and I were looking forward to playing together. We've met because of our passion for music and at the time I was already singing but mostly Hard Rock being Eric Martin (Mr Big) my greatest reference at the time. Nuno liked Paul Gilbert so we had that band in common but later he showed me some other great Heavy Metal bands and when I listened to singers like Ronnie James Dio, Carl Albert, Geoff Tate and Tony Moore - just to name a few great inspirations - I felt I had to step up my game! I wanted to sing like them... I still do because I only practice at home and rehearsals, so I am still learning every single day!
At the end of 2013, your "Demo" cd was released which was self-financed, and a few months later the three songs were released with two bonus tracks on vinyl from Helmut Mueller. How did this collaboration came up and was there a plan to go on with Helmut's label?
We got an invitation from Helmut for the re-release of the DEMO songs on vinyl, this was by the end of 2013 and at the time we thought that it would be a good way to do some more promotion for the band. He asked us to add a little bonus material and we decided to record 2 cover songs… and that’s basically it! We weren’t looking for anything since at the time we were focused on developing new material, but I guess he liked the songs and so he reached out to us. It also gave us a new experience of working with labels and working with deadlines.
You have already told us about the "bad" moments as far as the Keep It True Festival is concerned but I want you to focus on the good part now.
Simply put, it was an honour to play at such a Festival. The way we were received, the attention to detail by all the staff in every single matter imaginable… we felt like pros there. Setting up everything prior to the show perfectly with absolutely no hassle at all, I could go on and on…
I had previously attended the festival in 2011, and the atmosphere is amazing both for bands and fans! We obviously loved to share the stage with bands that we admire, and we’ve made great friends during the whole event.
Personally, I wasn’t feeling on top of my game and the whole band suffered from the line-up changes which affected our overall performance, but although we would like to have done better, I know we did the best possible under the circumstances… and hopefully, it was worth it for everyone involved!
Both the cd release and the vinyl were limited to 300 copies only, do you know if there are still copies available for sale and if yes, how can we order them?
They sold out very quickly. I did spend 10 days packing and going back and forth to the post office, sending orders to 5 Different Continents! If you find one copy for sale these days consider yourself lucky – it’s certainly from someone who bought it from us directly and now wants to get rid of it! Ahah!
Who decided to go on with the band and why did you change the band's name into Thünndress? I think you were already known in the scene with the first name, so now is it like a fresh start?
There was never a decision to go on with the band because this band just won’t go away like that. Simply put, it will keep on going until either one of us is no longer capable of performing… either I can no longer sing or Nuno can’t play the guitar.
As for the name change, there were a couple of reasons why we’ve decided to do it. It was a process that Nuno started at the beginning of 2019 but he didn’t tell me right away. If I recall correctly, he had been thinking about all that happened to us and the band and wanted a break from that. So yes, you could say he was looking for a fresh start. Also, we were already in a different state of mind from when we picked the name THE UNHOLY and so it started to make less sense to him.
Having a new line-up also helped make the decision as it marks the beginning with the new guys.
In my opinion, the new name sounds much better, what's the meaning behind the name THÜNNDRESS?
Thanks – we’re very happy about it too!
So… Nuno told me that he had been considering a name change around June last year and that he was thinking about it for some time. In what he told me, band names consisting of two words put together never interested him since he sees it as just a mere exercise of word-puzzling. Instead, he always found interest in made-up words such as Queensrÿche or Savatage so he started playing with the word “thunder”, which really has a lot of meaning to me since I came up with the title Queen of Thunder.
He was familiar with an 80s comic book from japan called BASTARD!! – Heavy Metal Dark Fantasy, in which the author pays his homage to the 80s Heavy Metal scene – fun fact: there’s even a golem with the Motorhead logo as its head and a villain which appearance looks like King Diamond. There’s a particular character in there who’s title is Thunder Empress, so from there he went to “Thunderess” and presented me the idea.
I told him that it sounded like “Thunder-Ass” … so with a bit more brainstorming, he decided to take out an “e” and that sounded really interesting. We searched for references for this name and we saw it had been used by a residual amount of people as a nickname on an on-line gaming platform. We had a few other names based around the word “thunder”, but this one just sounded stronger. Yet we wanted something a little more unique so we decided to play with the word and add the umlaut and double the “n”. The pronunciation is still the exact same so it works, though it might be strange at first sight. But that’s just another facet of ours… we don’t intend to be immediate and easy.
There are also other layers to the name’s significance though you’ll have to wait for the record to come out. In short, you feminize the word Thunder with the suffix -ess, change a few letters and voilà! Now the real work is giving meaning to the name with music when all is said and done that’s really what counts!
It is commonly accepted that the metal scene is a man dominated field even though things seem to change a little bit in the last few years. How hard is for a woman to be in a metal band or in the metal scene in general? I would also like your opinion on the term "female-fronted" band. Since there is no term such as "male-fronted" band, do you think it is fair for women to be categorised like that?
I get asked about this all the time and I can’t say it enough – I really don’t care about a vocalist being male or female as long as you can hear the intention and power in his/her voice. I actually think that there are lots of women in Metal bands especially in Death Metal and other subgenres… but when it comes to Heavy Metal, Speed Metal and Power Metal it’s not as common, nonetheless, I believe we are as capable as men for that job. If we don’t see more women singing, then that’s just because they don’t go for it! You have to free yourselves from complexes and find the fury and guts to scream your heart out!
As you’ve probably realized I didn’t mention any female names as inspirations but there are a few respectable female vocalists I adore such as Leather Leone, Lee Aaron, Jutta Weinhold… I don’t mind about the term “Female Fronted Band” – I actually use it quite often even to describe my own band because it’s just a fact, nothing more. I never thought about it as categorizing, I consider it’s just a normal term.
You hail from Portugal, a country that offered us some really cool bands in the past but Portugal was never a hot-spot for a big metal-scene like it was maybe for Germany, Italy or Greece. What's your opinion about the Portuguese metal-scene and how are things there for you nowadays. Is there big support for bands like THÜNNDRESS if it goes for concerts and promotion?
Fortunately, there are many Metal bands, festivals and metalheads in Portugal… but once again I think when it comes to Heavy Metal, in particular, the scene is still pretty small.
There were some bands in the 80s like TARANTULA or even ALKATEYA but I think our scene really started developing in the 90s and at the time other sub-genres like Death and Black Metal were starting to get more traction… so you have historical festivals which started back then as more dedicated to the extreme metal scene that only recently has been adding more classic Heavy Metal acts. It’s like if extreme metal did originate classic metal and not the other way around but what do I know… I wasn’t even born then so that’s more of a feeling than personal experience. Though I think that, as time goes on, Heavy Metal is starting to get more noticing and that’s due to bands that keep on putting out records like MIDNIGHT PRIEST and RAVENSIRE or even newcomers like WANDERER or LYZZARD.
As for THÜNNDRESS we hope to start getting more notice once things are up and running. Watch out!
You will surely do!! So what about future plans? A full-length maybe or anything else? I'm asking as a fan now and not as an interviewer.
We’re preparing for small shows and looking for dates to play around the country and any other place people want us! We’re working hard for our debut but we need some road feel in order to bring some of that into the studio with us. The set as been very restricted to songs that people already know as we don’t want to break any surprises… though even the old songs are being improved so you’ll get some sense of what we’ve been doing.
If you want to add something, please be my guest.
Looking forward to a “lightning” bright future for THÜNNDRESS!
Thank you for your time Sara! I wish you and Thunndress the best!