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Gates of Babylon

An interview with the entire all-girl metal band from Cleveland and Detroit

Gates of Babylon by Tina Hall
October 2010

Gates of Babylon is an all-female metal band comprised of Suzie Reagen on guitar and vocals, Jessi Carrick on lead vocals, Kristen Woutersz on guitar, Nikki Collins on drums, and Sarah Stonebraker on bass. They currently claim Cleveland, Ohio and Detroit, MI as home.

The band, though unsigned, has developed quite a following from Ohio to Michigan. They will be featured in the upcoming November issue of Revolver Magazine - Hottest Chicks in Metal Special Edition. With so little known about them it was an honor to have the chance to bring our readers up to speed.

Maximum Ink: When you where growing up did you ever see yourself as part of an all-female metal band?
Kristen: No, but I always imagined myself playing guitar in a band and being in the music industry. I would dream about performing on stage when I was a kid.
Jessi: Never! I have always loved music and being a part of bands, but was never looking to be part of an all girl band. Originally, I started out in a completely different genre of music. I was playing indie/folk music on acoustic guitar and singing. I had also been in a rock band for a year or two. I knew very little about metal until I met these girls. I love our music though, and am having so much fun playing with all girls in the metal genre.
Sarah: I would fantasize about it sometimes especially growing up seeing groups such as Spice Girls, Josie & The Pussycats, Kittie, Jack Off Jill, etc. (LOL, hey at least I’m being honest here). I ended up actually being in an all male band before joining GOB.
Suzie: Not when I was growing up. I played classical guitar when I was a kid and I hated it. lol. But I also know that if I wouldn’t have had that at an early age chances are I wouldn’t be playing now. (thanks mom) When I was about 11, I hit an age of curiosity. I started to discover music. I started listening to Marilyn Manson and a lot of the grunge stuff. I was just in awe. All I ever wanted to do was listen to music. It was like food to my brain! I didn’t care about anything else!  When my mother would make me go to church, it was so boring I would sit in the last row and draw pictures of me playing instruments and being in a band. I think in a sense i have always wanted this from an early age, I would fantasize about being in a band. I used to play guitar for the church, but I hated it. lol.

MI: Do you find it different to work in a band with all women as opposed to working with both sexes? Do things ever get..competitive?
K: We get along great and I think it’s actually easier for us because we are all girls. We are equally appreciative of each others strengths, so there is no competition. We compromise and we challenge each other to improve on our weaknesses. I have been in bands with boys and they tend to want things done or written their way or the highway so to speak. I maintain that this isn’t Burger King, and you can’t always have it your way.
J: From my experience the girls are similar to the boys. I think people expect an all girl band to be full of drama - which it can be! To me though, there
is just as much drama working with the opposite sex. There is always going to be disagreements and small arguments, but I think we are all good at keeping our focus on making the band work. This is important to all of us,and even though we may have our differences, we are like a family and love each other regardless.
S: I think it’s easier. You don’t have to worry about developing feelings for your band mate or their girlfriends getting jealous that you are in the band and they aren’t. You can keep things professional. Things never get competitive because we all get along quite surprisingly really well and we all know what we are striving for which keeps us driven.
SR: I am a competitive person in nature, but I think the biggest difference in this band versus any other band for me is the distance. It takes a lot of patience to make things work. I don’t think we are competitive at all with one another. We are very good with sharing vocals and leads when it comes to guitar. I had another all girl metal band in Cleveland and I do think in a sense there are things about working with other females that makes it easier. There is usually less of an ego when it comes to music. I have been in a lot of bands with males and females and I have enjoyed every single one of the bands I’ve been in and learned a lot from all of them!

MI: Do you ever find people are surprised to see women rock the stage?  What is it like to tour with so many women?
K: People do tend to be surprised, I was refused entry once at a venue in Lansing, MI when I told the door guy i was in the band playing that night after he tried to charge me admission. He didn’t believe me, until someone else at the venue recognized me from our band myspace. I think they are surprised to learn how heavy we are as well. We don’t look like your average metal head. Most of them think we are going to play music along the lines of Avril Lavigne or something, so when we get up there and shred, people tend to stop talking and gather around the stage to watch. I once approached by a kid after a big metal show called Bledfest who shook my hand and told me, “I just got my balls handed to me.”
J: Yes! People are always curious. It is always my favorite part seeing all the looks on their faces when we start our first song. We are giving the boys in the metal world a run for their money!
S: Absolutely. I believe people have low expectations when they see pretty girls getting on stage “dolled up” with instruments. We have not experienced touring together yet.
SR:  We haven’t done any touring yet so I don’t know on that one, lol. Yes, I have seen surprise many times when I’ve been on stage with women. People are quick to judge, you can just see it in their eyes. I like it better that way. If they already think we’re gonna suck, that just makes it easier to change their minds. It’s kinda funny because you can feel the vibe of the crowd when your setting up and then as soon as you start playing everyone will come up to the stage and want to see you play. It’s like you have to win them over, and we do!

MI: I noticed Rikki Rockett had posted something along the lines of “I think you are fuckin’ awesome.” What it is like to hear that? I myself have loved Poison since I was a child. Are you a fan of their work?
K: I was honestly floored when I read that. It’s always an honor to get positive feedback from someone who’s been in the industry for so long. Every once and a while I still like to jam out “Every Rose Has it’s Thorn” if I am at a bonfire on my acoustic, haha.
J: Like I’ve said before, I really am unfamiliar with the genre and am not really familiar with their work. Its amazing to see those kind of remarks from important people though and I am honored by it.
S: I was not aware of this posting.
SR: Wow, how crazy is that? I was blown away when I saw that. When you get a complement from someone who knows the music industry the way he does, it makes me feel like we are on the right track.

MI: Who where some of the influences that led you to pursue the music?
K: Bullet for my Valentine, Tool, Protest the Hero, As I lay dying, Metallica, Between the Buried and me… These are some of my biggest influences.
J: The first album I ever bought was Jewel “Pieces of You”. She was a huge inspiration to me growing up and learning guitar and singing. As a vocalist, she is amazing. She inspired me to play with different vocal tones and textures - to really put all your heart and soul into the music you are singing.
S: I have so many influences from each different stage of my life. I listen to almost all genres, I don’t discriminate. When I decided to play bass I was at the music store with my Pappy and he wanted me to pursue the banjo, but I had my eyes on this Washburn Bantum series that had a red body. It was so beautiful. Needless to say, I ended up getting it and the first song I learned was “Smoke on the water”. I would go to my Aunts house and we would sit there and have little jam sessions with basic book music. I started reading tabs online and it broadened my music horizons even more.
SR: My number one influence is as I lay dying. I think since they are my favorite band my head is just filled with similar style riffs. I can’t even help it. I am influenced by so many bands I couldn’t name them all. Led Zeppelin, Bleeding Through, Fear Factory, Heaven Shall Burn, Acid Bath, Darkest Hour, Deftones, Killswitch Engage. A lot of different kinds of metal bands new and old and rock as well!

MI: There isn’t much about Gates of Babylon out there. Can you fill our readers in on that? Where did the idea for the name come from?
K: The Idea came from an art history class I took in college, which featured the Gates of Ishtar, one of the outermost walls of Babylon, and it is very beautiful, made of a semi precious stone called Lapis Lazuli. The Gate of Babylon (or Ishtar) is now located in a museum in Berlin. Ironically enough, our song 96 miles to freedom is a centered around a story that takes place in Berlin. Lol. We didn’t do that on purpose.
J: Kristen and Suzie came up with the name for the band.
S: I believe when we started the band we were trying to think of names and it already had it picked out so we went for it? I can assure you it has nothing to do with the band Rainbow.
SR: Kristen came up with the name. We debated on names for awhile and then finally agreed Gates of Babylon was the best name for us.

MI: How would you describe the sound of this band?
K: Metalcore I suppose. We have been called ‘the female As I lay Dying’ and also had our music compared to Bullet For My Valentine, which is a huge compliment for us.
J: I feel like Gates of Babylon has a really unique sound. We are heavy yet melodic. Parts of our songs can be so brutal and hardcore and then the next thing you know it turns into this beautiful harmonized and layered melody. We have really catchy parts and really intricate parts. Our goal is to never let the listener be bored.
S: Well, we have been compared to female versions of “As I Lay Dying” and “Bullet For My Valentine” which is the greatest of compliments received, I think. When people ask I tell them to go take a listen and let me know [-;
SR: Melodic, heavy, rocky, metal. Melodic metalcore? I don’t know.

MI: What do you hope fans take away from the live show?
K: I just hope they enjoy our music as much as we do. We just want to make good old fashioned metal with catchy hooks that people enjoy listening to.
J: I hope they become addicted! I hope they can’t wait to hear those songs again and want to come see us again and again and again. There is nothing more exciting than a really good energized crowd. I want our shows to be the total package: a great live performance and a party.
S:A lot of good energy and positive feelings. I hope they take a little piece of GOB with them home to haunt them in their sleep.
SR: I hope that they enjoy our music

MI: Do you have any one particular favorite heavy metal song?
K:White Walls” by Between the Buried and me. The last two or three minutes of the song has inspired so much of what I do and the way I write.
J:Anything” by Protest the Hero.
S: Oh man, there are so many. I suppose the heavy metal song -of the moment- would be “Anything” by Between The Buried and Me. I listen to them when I work out.
SR: I’m not sure. As of right now, we don’t have any super heavy songs but we are working on writing some heavier tunes.

MI: Do you any advice to offer girls aspiring to be musicians?
K: Practice Practice Practice. I gave up on a lot of my social life growing up for playing music. All those years cooped up in my room just playing and writing while my friends were out shopping or what have you. Not that I don’t enjoy blowing money at the mall, lol. And don’t ever let anyone tell you that you are no good, or that you should just give up. Give that person the middle finger and continue to do what you love and progress as a musician. That is coming from experience.
J: Do your research. Become independent and don’t let other people in the industry take advantage of you. Pursue your dreams with integrity and don’t rely on being a “hot chick”. Remember that you are an artist, and let your music shine through. sex sells, but it’ll only take you so far. As women it is our jobs to command respect in the music industry. Its great to be a sexy female artist - but always remember you’re art is what’s important.
S: Just be real. Be yourself and do what makes you happy. Don’t let things get to your head or let people bring you down but also do not let your head get too big, make everything go to your heart instead.
SR: The advice that I would give to anyone aspiring to be a musician is this. It’s a very hard industry to pursue. Ha ha we are still pursuing it. You will never make it if you give up. If your not good enough, work harder. Make sacrifices. Try harder. If someone slams a door in your face, keep going. Move on to the next. Use your fears and insecurities as a way to try harder, a way to find your own improvement. It is this kind of determination and attitude about life that will help anyone succeed in any field they are pursuing. Determination is number one. It is the fuel of success.

MI: How does this band differ most from your past ones?
K: The distance, and the overall feedback of the fans. I have never been in a band that is so far away from one another, yet we make it work. Also, this band is much more well received than previous bands I have been in.
J: We are all driven and want to contribute. We respect each other and want to work as a team. Nobody wants to run the show or be the star. We are a group.
S: It’s different. I sang in my last (all male) band and it was a high school band. It wasn’t taken as seriously but it was experience. This is totally different, a lot of communication and professionalism but all developed a friendship and love for what we do together.
SR: Distance. The distance is very hard. I miss being physically closer to my band mates. Also I think we have put together a project that will go beyond anything I have done in the past. We get a lot more attention as a whole than any of my past projects.


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