White Empress

An Interview with Paul Allender and Mary Zimmer
by Chris Fox
October 2014

White Empress cover art by Ian Chalgren

White Empress cover art by Ian Chalgren

If you’ve heard of CRADLE OF FILTH, COAL CHAMBER, or LUNA MORTIS, you’re already familiar with what the emerging WHITE EMPRESS brings to the table. With the guitar techniques of Paul Allender (formerly of CRADLE OF FILTH), this new six-piece brings some Madison-local flavor with vocals from Mary Zimmer (formerly of LUNA MORTIS) and fellow Madisonian on guitar, Jeremy Kohnmann (Ash Aria).

Allender proclaims that the band is truly one-of-a-kind, as they combine a menagerie of backgrounds and talents. “It sounds like WHITE EMPRESS. It doesn’t sound like anything else,” he explains. Allender says the formation of the band came after CRADLE OF FILTH took a bit of a hiatus. “The whole plan was to take off a couple of years and then come back full station, but that didn’t happen. Basically, that’s when I sort of turned White Empress into not just a project but a full-time band.”

Zimmer says that the band is truly a combination of several ideas melding into a unique sound. “Everybody contributed and wrote their own parts. Paul did the arranging and wrote the core of the music - it was almost done by the time I got it,” she explains. “But I got to write my own vocal parts, which was different for me, and he let me have the freedom to do what I wanted.”

When in a band, many people imagine a specific sound that they are searching for, especially when it comes to vocals. “What I liked was that Paul said, ‘just do whatever you want to do. I’m not going to tell you what to do.’ It’s cool because everybody gets to contribute in that kind of way. That makes the music better and opens it up to better ideas.”

“There’s no point in starting a band and trying to make it sound like one thing or another. That way, at the end of the day, it’s going to sound like just that one person and it’s not really a band. I think it’s really important to just sound the band that we are,” Allender says. “Everybody has their own say within it.”

So much of the metal sound is reliant on live shows, but WHITE EMPRESS takes the concept of playing live to heart. “To be honest, that’s the reason why I got White Empress started to begin with. The reason why the songs are what they are is for live. After all the years that I’ve been doing this, I’ve noticed audience and fan reactions to certain parts of riffs every time I play them,” Allender says. “I’ve made mental note of that and studied it quite well. That’s the reason why it’s got such a heavy groove. There are certain parts of WHITE EMPRESS tunes that if you’re not jumping up and down, if you’re not moving your head, you’re dead. Simple as that.”

“When we’re all out there, playing together, it’s going to be a phenomenal experience. Live, it’s going to be just insanely intense,” Zimmer adds.

Allender is looking to bring back an old-school punk attitude to the metal scene with this band. He explains, “It’s really like, ‘fuck you, I don’t care what you say.’ That whole punk feel, that whole attitude.” The blasé of the current metal scene drives an audible frustration from Allender. “The whole scene has gotten so mundane, and we want to break people out of that. There’s no attitude anymore.”

“We don’t want a subdued audience. We want to put on those raw shows, and I think people are waiting for it. I think it’s time to get back in there and kick some heavy metal ass,” Zimmer adds. “The scene as a whole has people that are starting to cycle out and new people are starting to cycle in. We’re seeing a whole refreshing of the scene. I think metal is picking up again in a whole new way.”

“You know that feeling that you get that makes the hair stand up on the back of your neck? I want to get that back into the scene,” Allender says. “Just how raw live is and having that sound, that’s what it’s all about for me. People that you don’t know get jumping up and down and getting into something that you’ve created, that’s just awesome.”

“WHITE EMPRESS has given all of us the opportunity to do what it is that we do best as individuals,” Zimmer says.

The debut album “Rise of the Empress” was released last month on Peaceville Records and the band will be shredding it up during a mini-tour starting at the Capitol Centre Sports Bar in Appleton on October 24, The Metal Grill in Cudahy on October 25 and The Cabooze in Minneapolis on October 30, and will end their mini-tour Halloween weekend at the Frequency for Maximum Ink’s 12th Annual Halloween Spööktakular on October 31st and November 1st, playing a unique set each night.

Friday’s show will see special guests from Los Angeles From the Light Rose Angels, featuring VK Lynne (stOrk) open for White Empress along with Madison rockers The Skizzwhores and Made of Blocks, and Saturday’s line up will warm the cockles of Allender’s punk-heart with the line up of Not Dead Yet, Government Zero, and The Faith Hills Have Eyes to open the show.

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CD: Rise of the Empress Record Label: Peaceville Records
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