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Burning Witches


Laura Guldemond: “Unless you are Marilyn Manson or Alice Cooper, or whatever, it is better if you also have the looks. ”

De ster van de Zwitserse all-female thrash metal band Burning Witches stijgt snel. Het concept is niet nieuw, maar op de één of andere manier was er hier iets bijzonders aan de hand, waardoor grote boekingskantoren en festivals het wel zagen zitten met de dames. Een platencontract bij Nuclear Blast volgde al snel en begin dit jaar brachten ze nog ‘Burning Alive’ uit. Geheel onverwachts echter kondigde zangeres Seraina haar vertrek aan, vlak voor de grote kick-off van het festivalseizoen. De Nederlandse gitarist van de band, Sonia, had evenwel al snel de eveneens Nederlandse Laura Guldenmond op het oog als vervanger. Laura gooide ooit hoge ogen bij Idols, was met haar band Shadowrise aan een gestage opmars bezig en werd technisch goed genoeg bevonden werd om in het koor van Ayreon plaats te mogen nemen. Een zangeres die bovendien qua looks uitstekend aansluit bij de rest van de band, dus dat leek een bekeken zaak. Echter, een populaire zangeres vervangen is bepaald niet iets om lichtzinnig over te denken, zo leert de geschiedenis. De uitkomst is tot nu toe echter meer dan verbluffend en de Eindhovense won in korte tijd de harten van de fans en lijkt de band zelfs naar een hoger niveau te stuwen. Hoog tijd dus om eens aan haar persoonlijk te vragen hoe dit tot stand is gekomen.

Door: Ramon Ι 18 augustus 2019

Hi Laura, I think it is inevitable to start where we should: congratulations on your entry of Burning Witches. How long has this plan been in the making before you actually joined?
I was contacted four weeks before the recording of ‘Wings Of Steel’, that is how quickly this all went. I wasn’t officially part of the band when I started working on the song, it was made official and announced after Sweden Rock, where I performed with them. Let me look this up in my agenda. It became official on the 7th of June, they contacted me halfway May. I had to fly back and forth a bit for an audition first, after I sent over a recorded audition first. Then there was the rehearsal for Sweden, then came the actual show in Sweden, and after that recording the new song. So it were, like, SUPER busy weeks.

The band is from Switzerland, but with Sonia on guitar and now you aboard, the band is now two fifth Dutch. Did Sonia suggest you?
Yes, Sonia was the one who suggested me. She saw a post of me on Instagram and that reminded her of me and made her think “she might actually fit“ (laughs). I was really happy she asked me.

What was the audition like? Were they already in the mindset of you being the new girl, or were they defending the spot a bit, like most of the time? I figure not the last, since there was so little time, right?
Burning Witches gave me a warm welcome and a lot of trust of being able to get up to speed so fast. I don’t think they defended the spot, but of course they wanted a good solution, not only a fast one and they were still recovering from the news of Seraina leaving. It had to be as quick as possible. They wanted a new singer on Sweden Rock and a new song to introduce me. For them it was a very stressful situation. I checked off all their boxes of what they were looking for in a singer. There was just one problem making especially me nervous. I didn’t had a lot of practice the weeks before they contacted me, because there was no need for me to practice singing for anything at that time. Because of that I wasn’t really taking good care of my voice either. I had a cold a week before, two heavy parties and some medicines I took at the time were wearing my voice down it seemed. So my voice couldn’t have been in a worse condition. I’m really lucky with the trust they gave me. Since it all happened so fast I had to recover my voice in the process. My audition I wouldn’t consider as a good audition myself hahaha. I couldn’t rely on my voice at all. The rehearsal after was more convincing and we checked just in case how much I could push my voice. Just a few days before Sweden Rock Festival I felt my voice was recovered and ready.

There was not a real disclosure on why Seraina left, what was the reason, other than to focus on her other project, that she could have had side by side?
There was one very big one on the Facebook page after the Sweden rock gig. It was because she wanted to focus more on her own project. I think it’s as simple as that, people’s interests can change with time.

I hate to ask you this, but I must. The sexy image of the band quite suits you too, right? Was that a topic when you auditioned to become the new singer, since you are not only the voice, but now also the face of this group?
Oh that’s fine, unless you are Marilyn Manson or Alice Cooper, or whatever, it is better if you also have the looks. But they thought I had, well, not only the looks for this band, but also the background, I was already a metal singer. I understood they’ve had some singers auditioning that were not having this background. It is not just about looks, it is the complete picture and they thought I was the best fit. As for the part of the looks: thanks mum and dad, I guess (laughs).

The first reactions on your entry have been overwhelmingly positive, so congratulations on that too. You are quite experienced as a singer, but this must have been something else to do, wasn’t it?
Yes (laughs), I didn’t know what to expect. I was expecting more hate mail, you know. The last singer was really great and I was wondering what the fans would think, because she has such a distinctive voice. So I am really happy it turned out this positive. This band is out on Nuclear Blast and that is my favourite label, actually. So I am really happy that that happened to be this record company. I have been working for ten years to be doing all the things I am doing now. So as a singer, things take time to develop. We can tour, record and we have an awesome team around the band. This is totally next level for me. It started crazy and huge, but it was a GREAT start (laughs).

What will this mean for your role in your other ventures, like Shasowrise?
I think I will be able to combine this. Neither entities are full-time bands, not yet. So at this moment it is easy to combine. And there are a lot of big bands out there with side projects, so I am not worried about that at all. It will always be possible, I will stay in Shadowrise and possibly do even other side projects if I can. I don’t think a lot will change.

Are there any plans for Shadowrise in the near future too?
In Shadowrise we’re going back and forth a bit for song ideas at the moment and after writing and recording for Burning Witches is done I will start writing lyrics and vocal lines and recording for Shadowrise!

Cool, keep us posted! Now not everyone might be aware, but besides singing really loud and heavy, you have actually a broad background in singing and you are a vocal teacher yourself, right? Tell us more about that, who are welcome for lessons and stuff like that?
Ok, yeah! Hahaha. I did a LOT of different things as a singer. At some point I tried to be a better singer. About ten years ago I was just having fun with it, but I wanted to do more. I could do, like, one octave right and I wanted to do more. I was in a cover band, which was fun. Then I went to another cover band that also made their own music, all kind of rock related, with some pop and R&B. And I DO like other kinds of music too, but my heart is with metal, the heaviness, the guitars, so very soon after I had my first metal band. Very soon after I went to the Metal Factory, which is (Holland’s) first metal conservatory ever. That was fun. All of the teachers were from famous or really good Dutch bands, so you get to learn from their experience. They had experience from Within Temptation, Gorefest, Aborted, Stream Of Passion and I met my band Shadowrise there. That also landed me a position in The Epic Rock Choir with

Ayreon, I was in a choir of a project with Kristopher Gildenlöw (KayaK, LorM-R.), so all kinds of cool stuff. And school set up all kinds of stuff. We played in ice hockey rinks, DURING the games, so that was fun. And then I did Idols in the Netherlands of course. I think you already need some experience before you start on something like that, it’s crazy fast, you have to learn everything SO fast, you have only one day and a half to learn a song sometimes.

So, about the vocal coaching: everybody is welcome as long as you have a goal. I don’t like to entertain people during singing classes, hahaha. So for very young children, most of the time they are just having fun, which is of course the whole point of music, it’s fine, but I really like to teach people who have something in mind that they want to learn. I don’t really care about the genre you want to learn, I don’t really care about anything, as long as you have that. Even if you think you are super bad at it, it doesn’t matter, that’s what the lesson is for (laughs). So I would be super happy to help. I can help you with clean singing, but also for everyone that wants to learn how to sing with distortion, or screams or any other effect. But I’ll just help with any personal goal. I am also giving Skype lessons and I am thinking about giving lessons on tour in the future. So if you don’t live close to me and you don’t want to do Skype and have personal attention, keep an eye out for my touring schedule.

One thing I have been dying to ask you, after you left Idols, what rights and obligations followed you?
Ah ok, not THAT much luckily. I only had to wait for a year before I could write anything that I wanted to publish that was related to what I did there. So I made sure it would not interfere with my plans for Shadowrise, for which I wanted to release music soon after that, and I asked for that clause, which they had no problem changing. It used to be very bad years ago when it was on TV for the first few times, but they went very easy on me.

What made you decide to enter that competition, as none of the former Idols contestants in Holland have a career as a pop singer, anymore?
It was really something I just had to try some time because of nostalgia. And the funny thing is in the year I joined there was actually one singer also getting to the last twenty contestants that is doing very well  now in Holland performing in stadiums across the land. I think it’s something you can only do if you keep putting in the hard work yourself and surround yourself with the right people.

Ok, so you did the first shows, a couple more by now, you released the first single, you have the festival season ahead of you, what else is in store for you and Burning Witches?
Well, we are already writing for the new album. So that’s really cool, it will get even more crazy after that. So an album, more tours, more festivals next year, as this was the first festival season for the band. So I really can only see things get better. For me it will mean a whole different life, I am used to be working almost every day, so I won’t be able to do that every day, but my job is quite flexible. So I don’t expect many problems, it will be very cool, new and very rock ‘n roll.

Thanks for your time, congratulations again, may this be the start of a great adventure. I give you the opportunity to close the interview down for the readers of Lords of Metal.
For the Dutch fans, we will be playing Eindhoven Metal Meeting in December, I don’t know if the exact date is announced yet, but we will be there, 12th or 13th of December. It is in my hometown. Thanks for all the support and all your nice message and for everyone’s warm-hearted welcome. Great, thanks!

Check de onderstaande socials voor meer informatie over deze band.