Driving Mrs. Satan
is a trio of London and Naples-based musicians who've recently released their debut LP, entitled Popscotch
. As the title suggests, it's lovely, poppy music. The lyrical content may surprise, however, as each and every song is a reinterpretation of a heavy metal track. From Iron Maiden's "Can I Play With Madness?" to a truly novel take on Anthrax's "Caught In A Mosh," the songs -- as the band's Facebook says -- are heavy metal made easier. Yet, for the songs being stripped of the speed and heaviness, there emerges the root melody and lyricism inherent in these songs oft-derided as meatheaded. The band spoke with us via e-mail about the new album and how Driving Mrs. Satan came together.
The band bio is so simple -- that you, Giacomo, rediscovered your love of heavy metal when moving one summer. What's your history as a fan of the genre, and why'd you stop listening?
Heavy metal was the first music genre I have seriously listened to. It was the year of grace 1988, I first find out the music of Iron Maiden ... and in one shot I bought their entire discography, just after that, I went on listening to Metallica, Slayer, Helloween and much more.
It took me less than one week to understand that I wanted to be a musician. I never actually stopped listening to heavy metal, but I opened my musical horizons, and started listening to, and playing, also other kind of music. The emotions of those records return each time the turntable needle goes down on the vinyl.
What brought you back?
One night I was waiting for a ship to go back home, and I used the time I had to put together a selection of metal albums to listen to during the trip. It was a fantastic night! I hooked up again with the primordial emotions, lulled by a cool summer breeze and the slight sound of the sea. I felt that I had to do something. I had to draw that emotion into music. And I decided to do that staying tied in a strong way with the lyrics and the melodies of the songs I was listening to.
How did you all in the band initially meet?
Me and Ernesto met a long time ago. We share a strong passion for music and have been playing and touring together with a number of bands over the past 10 years. Ernesto met Claudia in 2007, when she was recording her songs as a songwriter. When we spoke about putting together a band to play re-arranged versions of the heavy metal songs that made our personal history, I thought she would have been the right fit ... we met a few times, made some recordings, and the band was born.
There are some striking sonic similarities between Driving Mrs. Satan and Nouvelle Vague -- a bright-voiced woman singing genre-swap cover versions. Where you or are you aware of their recordings, or was this influenced by something else, like Tori Amos doing "Raining Blood"?
I first heard of Nouvelle Vague one year ago, I was in Paris, and was having my friend listening to our demo, I can't remember if we were listening to I Want Out or Hells Bells, when he said "It has a different taste, but this reminds me of Nouvelle Vague."
So no, I was not aware of their recordings when we started. I think in my singing I was influenced over time by a number of singer-songwriters, like Nick Drake, just to say the first name that comes to mind. It's distant in time and we may not seem to share a lot ... but that voice gives me a sense of passion and quiet at the same time. I wanted my voice to sound simple and observing. Narrative.
For me, Nouvelle Vague is the main "ideological" influence of this project. Instead Tori Amos' Raining Blood is barely a cover. It perfectly fits with her aesthetic.
I agree with Ernesto. The influence of Nouvelle Vague is mainly ideological. I know very well their first album and I loved it. But we have not thought of someone or something in particular when we were recording the album.
Is there a particular method to reinterpreting these songs? I can see that you keep certain recognizable elements of songs, such as "South of Heaven"s opening riff being turned into a piano piece, but what determines how you go about it?
The only way is to be honest to the music you are reinterpreting. You have to know it well and love it.
We were looking for the very core of the songs. I can't imagine "South of Heaven" without that riff. It's a part of the song, like the lyrics are. We want the songs to be recognized. It wasn't our aim to steal words and write new songs. It's more like classical "variations." And I love Claudia's angelic and sexy voice singing these lyrics: scandalous, ambiguous, funny.
Has the response from the metal community proper been a good one?
Very good, until now. I was afraid of being crucified…
Well, the response is strong, for sure, and it's good most of the time, but when you reshape a song that is so different, so famous, and has meant so much for so many people ... of course it cannot be good all the time.
People from the metal community are debating over our project, some of them are fond of it, others hate it ... but most people find it interesting ... we've read many "I know I shouldn't like it, but, to be honest, I do" around the web. I think people appreciate good, honest music, whatever the style is.
Where do you see the band going from here -- will there be attempts at original music, or do you want to mine the metal genre some more first?
Who knows. I just can tell you we all write our own music every day.
This is just a starting point. We were able to create our own atmosphere between pop and metal aesthetics. What are the next choices we'll decide later. Surely we will continue to go down deeply in Hell! As someone says..."Mrs. Satan has no boundaries!"
We wrote several original songs. We're all musicians and songwriters, so writing original music has never been an issue. Indeed we're currently working at a soundtrack for a movie but things are at the early stage right now.
Nevertheless, there are still many, many metal songs we would like to rearrange. We love doing that. It's great fun. There are also many covers of hard rock and metal tunes we did record, but are not included in the album, "Popscotch", and that we're only playing during our live showcase. So yes, there are attempts at original music and yes we're definitely going to mine the metal genre some more.
You can find more information about Driving Mrs. Satan at their Facebook page.