I find it hard to get excited about too many new artists. There’s usually some intangible thing missing in so many new bands nowadays that many of us tend to tune out or get locked into our little cache of “acceptable” rockers. Basically, the new stuff just doesn’t blow us away the way the classic fix did all those years ago. Having said that, once in a while a new band comes along that not only has a unique sound of its’ own but draws upon all the things we love about metal or rock to begin with. Edge of Paradise (Dave Bates, guitars, Margarita Monet, vocals and Gene McEwen, drums) are one of the best independent bands to come out of L.A. in some time. Google their video “Mask” or buy the album of the same name and you’ll see and hear why I was all in as far as supporting the kind of rock these guys are bringing. I talked to lead vocalist Margarita Monet about her journey to the L.A. rock scene, the band’s new album, video and more. Read on….
Legendary Rock Interviews: Your band is based out of L.A. but you personally were born in Armenia correct?
Margarita Monet: Yeah, I was born there. We moved to Russia where I lived for about ten years and then when I was 11 we moved to Texas. I grew up in Texas.
LRI: Was it a bit of culture shock moving from Russia to Texas?
MM: It was. There’s a completely different lifestyle and mindset. My dad is a scientist and got a job here in the states so we all moved to Texas. Then when I went to college I moved to New York which was another change, but at little bit more like what I was used to.
LRI: You went to NYU for the arts and studied classical piano since the age of FOUR??? School is much different and more concentrated over in Russia. That sounds like a pretty amazing thing for a four-year old kid to be spending time on.
MM: School is definitely different overseas. When you are like 4 years old you and your family are basically expected to choose what you want to do with your whole life and what you’re going to study for the rest of your programs. If you choose to be a musician you go to music school when you’re four. It’s very strict and it’s not just your given instrument, you take all music classes, you take piano, voice, theory. I remember I also wanted to do dance and that wasn’t an option, you just have to do that ONE thing, that one concentration. You work your whole life at that one goal which does tend to make you accelerate much faster but it is pretty demanding as far as expecting that much clarity out of you at such a young age. The thing is that everything is so much more strict there. If you don’t do your homework you are really scared to go to class because the teacher will yell at you and embarrass you in front of other kids and you don’t want to feel stupid in front of your friends and stuff. You’re always very concerned with your studying and your homework. You grow up with a different kind of discipline to whatever you approach I guess.
LRI: I have a daughter that age and her biggest concerns are whether to wear the pink shoes or the brown shoes but maybe there is some benefit to asking kids to start thinking early about what they wanna do with their lives.
MM: There are definitely pros and cons to it. I think it’s nice to be able to try different things and study different things and figure out what you like or don’t like but I DO like music (laughs). It’s a lot to ask of a little kid.
LRI: You really excelled at classical piano to the point of where you recorded and performed that style of music correct?
MM: I never recorded a full album but I did record some pieces of music in that style. I used to go back to Russia during the summers and I did some performing and recording with concertos as a teenager. I wasn’t like a famous person or anything like that but I guess I was known within the community of people who follow classical mostly from competitions and things like that.
LRI: Sometimes when the classical and metal worlds collide it can be with spectacular results and success such as Trans Siberian Orchestra or Yngwie. Your guitar player Dave also has some of that classical influence and studied music as well. Do you think any of that blended in your new album, even in small doses?
MM: Yeah, a bit of it for sure. It’s really heavy music for the most part but I did play keyboards on there. In the future, the new music we’re making may incorporate even more of that because Dave plays from that place and writes with that classical influence as do I. When writing melodies I take a lot from those classical melodies. Yngwie does take those classical cues and mix it with really heavy music and that’s something I can definitely relate to because, like you said John, it often has a great effect. I don’t think Dave was LOOKING for someone who also had a classical influence or background it was more of a coincidence because us meeting at all was such a chance thing to begin with. Nothing about us working together was planned so it’s weird how that worked out but I do know that every time Dave writes he does have that kind of classical influence whenever he works. I think that it’s kind of cool that as this band and our sound develops, more and more people will be able to hear that in the music we create.
LRI: Dave had a band with Robin McCauley called BLEED and has put out material with them prior to joining up with you guys for Edge of Paradise then?
MM: Yeah, they had an EP out as BLEED and played some shows where they would do that material and also do Robin’s MSG stuff. They weren’t together a very long time before Robin had another gig to do and Dave had all this material that he had written and worked on with Tony Franklin and Greg Bissonette. Like I said, Dave and I really met and we had a lot of material to work with and change to kind of fit our sound in addition to the new material we came up with. It really didn’t take that long to complete the music between what we had and what we came up with.
LRI: The leadoff track “MASK” and the video that go with it are really pretty amazing and easily what got my attention. The video itself is great but the song is super catchy and hooky in addition to being very heavy. I was impressed by Dave’s guitar lines, the main riff and your voice. Some of the notes you hit are unreal.
MM: Thank you. It was a lot of work shooting that video but also a lot of fun. The song has a pretty dark story behind it so it was fun to try to capture that mood and vibe with what the director and we had in mind for the visual elements of it.
LRI: In addition to all of the other things we’ve talked about you also have an acting and screen background going back to your New York days. Did you get a chance to have that kind of creative input be put to use then?
MM: Yeah, it was a very collaborative process between us all. The song itself can mean different things to different people and we all just kind of talked about what it meant to us and that helped us flesh out what the end result would look like. It was task to look into locations and settings to try to recreate that feeling of the song itself.
LRI: I know you said before that you had training in voice growing up but was the concept of singing metal in front of people or recording vocals something totally different for you when you hooked up with this band?
MM: Yes. It was very, very new to me. I mean, I would sing before but mostly just for myself (laughs). I love lots of different kinds of music but am really into the founding fathers of metal and those voices like especially Ronnie James Dio. I really enjoy a lot of that classic male metal vocal and that’s a big influence on me but I was pretty new to the concept of actually SINGING it in a real metal band. I have never sung metal or rock at all in front of people to tell the truth other than back in New York when I played in a top 40 cover band kind of thing. The closest I’ve ever come to singing in front of people before that was like doing musical theatre which of course was nothing like this. This was a challenge but it was really interesting to get into and see what I could do with my voice and this kind of music, this really heavy music. I really enjoyed coming up with melody ideas and finding my own style within this and still am really interested in evolving and changing it whenever we come up with a new song. It’s exciting and I feel like I am continuing to develop my voice.
LRI: It’s weird to hear you talk on the phone because you really have this Doro Pesch like quality about you in that your visual appearance and speaking voice don’t really convey this monster or animal that you unleash when you sing. Does that come across even more unhinged live?
MM: Well, thank you for even comparing anything about me to Doro, she’s obviously one of the best metal singers and THE metal singer that you could hope to aspire to. I do try to unleash something within myself like you said, I think it’s always important to try to bring that intensity and be the best because as a female singer you are always having to be a little better than what people expect and do everything you can to prove yourself. People will say things like “Oh, the girl singer, she looks ok but let’s hear what she actually sounds like” or “Ok, she might sound okay on the album but let’s see her actually pull it off live”. It kind of makes it more exciting to have people doubting you like that, it makes it so much more of a challenge, I actually like that aspect of it. If you know who you are and what your sound is you grow a confidence to pull it off and once you can convey that you just keep building on that and building on that and it only improves. When you start building up live shows and a following of a loyal audience it can take on even more power. I think that what we’re doing now live is even more aggressive and powerful than what made it to the record.
LRI: I can’t stand it when people ask this question in interviews but here I find myself asking anyway…..What can people expect when they come to see you guys at a live show, what is the evening like?
MM: We are having a blast and having really good responses to our live shows. We can’t wait to take it out on the road and that’s something we are planning right now for this new year. I think the crowds really react because Dave is just a monster guitar player. His playing and soloing on the album is one thing but the live shows are just sick. The rest of us feel like we can hold our own as well and we strive to sound amazing. We put a lot of time and effort into rehearsals to ensure that we sound as good or better than the recordings, there’s nothing on the tape that we can’t pull off live or more than do justice to. We also mix in some of those classic godfathers of metal covers that were so influential to our own sound to flesh things out a bit live. Stuff like Dio, Maiden, Sabbath seem to mix in well with our originals. We have a lot of energy just because we’re still really taking off, we have been together a year now.
LRI: Are you kind of surprised at how far you’ve come already in such a short span of time? Granted, you’re in L.A. but I’ve heard from other musicians digging you and seen your videos and press and you have a good word of mouth. A lot of bands spend a year in the garage kicking around chords and figuring out what the wanna even do and you guys are generating a pretty good amount of attention and buzz in a pretty small window of time.
MM: I’m very new to the whole concept of being in a band so really I don’t know what to expect or what not to expect. We would hope it would be going at least as good as it is because we work on this band 24 hours a day and never really stop for any reason. We keep moving forward and I guess it has been moving pretty fast since it will be a year exactly now but for us it’s not nearly fast ENOUGH (laughs). We just want to keep moving and propelling forward and if a day or two goes by that we’re not working on a song or doing an interview or shooting a video it feels so weird that we’re not doing something. We immediately kick into doing SOMETHING. We really want to keep playing live shows and recording and reaching more people. It’s not always as easy as you’d like to tour especially as an independent band but we are plotting that out and we continue to record as well. It’s always interesting when people get turned on to us because we’re always really aware of the fact that we sound kind of unique, bands say that but we really don’t sound like anyone but Edge of Paradise. We always wonder what people are going to think when they hear that sound.
LRI: Since you’re out in L.A. and self-financed it’s probably making you want to get out and tour the whole country when you read some of the people’s comments on Facebook or Twitter. The album is reaching people who are able to give you immediate feedback. Does that mean a lot to you to get that kind of instant response from fans via social media?
MM: Yeah, it definitely does. It always feels good when someone recognizes what it is you do and makes it a point to respond to it. It’s very cool to get reaction from people online or in person but there’s just so many people online that you’re able to reach. That’s what makes it really satisfying. I’m really thankful that people have been so overwhelmingly interested. We’ve sent out merchandise to Europe and Canada and all of these places around the globe from people who visit our webpage and it really inspires a lot of hope and confidence in what you’re doing when you hear back from people who are interested enough to reach out to you like that. It’s nice but it really just makes us want to get out and tour and play more shows to get that in person reaction. When you play as a band live you are really part of a relationship with the audience. You’re in it together. This album is really just a taste of us finding our sound and getting started. We’ve already been working on new material for release and we are really excited about our new stuff. Dave and I and have been writing more and more and it seems to be getting even better as we get more familiar with who we are as a band.