In This Moment med karismatiska Maria Brink i frontposition, är just nu albumaktuella med “Black widow”. Rocksverige hade nöjet att sitta ned med Maria när hon besökte Stockholm och prata om det nya albumet, men även om hennes uppväxt som ung mamma och hur det är att vara kvinna i en ytterst mansdominerad bransch och att tro på sig själv:
I´ve had 500 people scream “Show me your tits!” at Ozzfest at the same time. I used to let that have power over me and I used to think that I had to be really tough and scream at the crowd and be like a boy, to be taken seriously. It was all bullshit! When I walk out on stage now, I´m confident. I know that they´re gonna love me, I know that I have my craft down and I´m in charge.
Your last name Brink, is it German?
Maria: It is German. It got shortened somewhere along the line and ended up being Brink. My dad isn´t in my life and I don´t have a relationship with him, but that was his last name and it´s kinda what I heard through the grapevine. I´m German, Polish, Italian and Cuban.
What´s your hometown Albany, NY like?
Maria: It´s a big city and we live a little bit on the outskirts of it. It´s nowhere near as cultured and fast tracked as in the city. I moved to California in 2000 for music and I was there for about eight years and then I moved back to Albany with my family. I´m probably gonna move back to the warm weather though, in a few years.
At what time in your life did you discover music?
Maria: I had a music mom. She had me as a young teenager and she was this 16 year old teenager girl back in the stoner, flower child, hippie days and she loved her albums and she loved her Black Sabbath, Queen, AC/DC, Iron Maiden and Patti Smith. Here records were everywhere and I was totally afraid of them all and I was terrified of “Eddie”. She took me to all the concerts and I think that´s what really started music in me. Then I got into Michael Jackson and so on, it came in waves and then I circled back around to rock and roll and that type of stuff, around 17 or 18.
What was the first metal record you listened to?
Maria: I probably started falling back in love with metal with Pantera and the first Korn album, that nu metal stuff and then I fell in love with Deftones. I live in upstate New York, so that´s like earth Crisis and Madball and the hardcore scene going on at that time. I liked the 80´s stuff when I was young, like “Pour some sugar on me” and “Appetite for destruction”, but I was a young, young girl.
You became a mother yourself at a very early age, right? A child yourself?
Maria: Yeah, early teenager and we grew up together, we like to say. It was difficult, but in a lot of ways it was a shift that ended up saving me, because I was on a really destructive path. When I got pregnant, I was really in the craziest stage and I was really rebellious and put myself in these really dangerous situations with dangerous people and being pregnant and all of a sudden having this little baby human, it was no longer just about me anymore. All of a sudden I had responsibility, so I think it ended up saving me, pulling me out of all those bad situations. It ended up being beautiful. It was definitely hard and it was a struggle. My son was young and I didn´t have a dad and my mom was hooked on crack at that time and I lived in the projects. I think everything happens for a reason and it just made us even more stronger. When I moved to California, my son came with me and it was the two of us in LA. My mom helped me a lot. I couldn´t get an apartment, my credit sucked, so my mom had to fly out and she´s been sober now for 20 years. We got an apartment in her name, so me and my mom and my son are a real tight family. We just made it work. My son toured with me and everything I did, he knows I did it for him. It all worked out.
Did you get to finish school?
Maria: Oh no! I got pregnant in the beginning of 9th grade, so I never graduated or anything.
Did you ever think about going back to school and finish it?
Maria: It wasn´t my path. My son did graduate and I was very on top of making sure that I wanted my son to graduate. He was the first in our family to graduate and I wanted him to really make sure he did that. For me, I just ended up being this eccentric, corky artist. I´m super dyslexic and I struggle a lot with concentration. I have OCD and it took me a lot of years to learn how to get more in touch with my intelligent side. I started doing interviews and I listened to cd´s that taught me about new words and so on. I almost started self teaching myself in the beginning of my career.
To the album then. Why “Black widow”?
Maria: I like to have an album theme that relates to me and is me and is extensions of me and my experiences, but I like to put it in an interesting twist and have it be more of a visual thing that people can be in connect with. She is me and parts of me and it´s kina about a girl who starts off innocent and pure and through life and dramatic things, becomes poisoned and infected. Through the darkness and comes out on the other side as the “Black widow”, who is confident within herself.
At the beginning of the title track, there´s something that sounds like it´s from some old educational track, speaking about the black widow. Was that something specially made for the album?
Maria: That´s a real old thing that we found on the internet. We just thought that would be really interesting to have that kinda vintage feel. The album has some things like that, that are more exciting and then it´s got a lot of the real truth and honesty and all those types of things. We made sure the album´s diverse and have all these different emotions.
Have you ever come across a black widow in real life?
Maria: Yeah and I always found them to be beautiful with the red spot and the shiny black. There´s something super intriguing with them, but I don´t want them crawling on me. Once I was going out to my car in California and I had to call my friend to come help me. There was a web on my right door, going to the car to the right and a web on my left door going to the car on the left. On both webs there were two black widows.
The first track, which is an instrumental called “The infection”, works pretty well now with Ebola spreading. But what´s a “Sex metal Barbie”?
Maria: (laughs) That is basically people making fun of me. Everyone on the internet these days, is so filled with hate. People just write horrible things, so I stopped reading social media a few years ago. Once in a while I can read it and actually laugh at it because it´s so silly it´s funny, but if you read too much it can become toxic. I let go of it, but we wanted to take a song and take everybody´s hate and flip it back onto them and make it something empowering. It´s kinda like making it a reflection back on them, so I used all the hateful, mean things and made it into one of my favorite songs we´ve ever done.
When you read comments about you, there´s a lot of stupid stuff about the way you look or about your voice, but I guess you´re using all that to turn it into something positive instead?
Maria: Yeah, exactly! There´s just so much hate. Everyone has their own right to their own point of view and everyone have their own perception of everything and everyone don´t have to love me, obviously, but I just think that it´s too much when people say that they want you to die and it can be so dark and mean. I think it´s always beautiful to take hate in some form and turn it into something beautiful. That´s what “Whore” on our last album kinda felt like. We noticed that the more popular we got, the more haters we got. It´s almost like a sign you´re doing good. I think “Sex metal Barbie” is gonna be such a slap in the face, because the people who really hate us, thay´re really gonna hate us!
It´s fascinating that there are so many people that seem to spend all their time writing hateful things and complaining about everything.
Maria: And there are so many more things you could be doing with your time and life, so we just basically wanted to take that and do some sort of twist on it. Basically thanking them for their hate, for inspiration for a song. (laughs)
You mentioned Deftones earlier and the song “Sexual hallucination” has a lot of that sound to it.
Maria: Oh, sure! He´s (Chino Moreno) my favorite. I can see if people hear an influence of them in there. Him and Trent Reznor and Brent Smith (Shinedown), who´s the guest singer. We´ve fallen in love with them (Shinedown). They´re just such stand up people and so kind and so supportive of the band. We didn´t think Brent would do the song, they were getting ready to do a new album and so on, but when I finally asked him, he didn´t think about it twice. The cool part of him doing that song with us, is that no one´s ever heard Brent like that with anyone else. The song takes you away. I like that the album´s got different things. It´s got the anger, the sarcasm, the real truth, the sexual stuff and this song to me, it hypnotizes you and it takes you away. We were afraid that Atlantic Records were gonna have a problem with some of our longer songs, because they´re a major label, but they loved it and had no problems with it. They were really supportive and didn´t compromise the art at all. We´re pretty grateful.
Could you see yourselves writing more songs in the style of “Sexual hallucination”?
Maria: Well, that would probably be more on my side project. Chris lets me thread in and out of that hypnotic, repetitive type vibe, but I think In This Moment is more diverse and our albums are more all over the place. It has a place on the album and I´m sure we´ll bring more of that here and there, but my side project would be a lot of that.
Did you ever go “Hmmm, it sounds a bit like Deftones!”?
Maria: I think… hmmm, it kinda made me think of Sade too. If somebody thinks I sound like Chino, I´ll probably say “Thank you very much!”. If somebody thought that it was inspired by that or they hear elements of that, I wouldn´t deny that. Aren´t we all inspired by what we love the most. (laughs)
What´s it like recording an album in Sin City (Las Vegas)?
Maria: Well, we write in the studio, so it´s not like we have all the album´s songs done before we get there. Part of the experience of when we do an album, is kinda shutting out the exterior world and getting lost in the writing and everything else kinda just fade away. We did go to some shows though, because I thought that would really visually inspire me for our new show. See new things. I did get inspired and we got some of our ideas for our show, from some of the shows we saw there. I saw some burlesque show where they had a big spider web on stage and I went “I´ve got to have that spider web!”, so we got one for the new show and we got a few other things. I also saw a Circus Soleil show.
With your last album “Blood” you said you went from being a girl to being a woman? In what way? The way you wrote music?
Maria: And even more so on “Black widow”. I think that when I started in this career, I was younger and I wasn´t quite sure who I was yet or what I had to offer as far as music was concerned, lyrics were concerned. We had ourselves locked in a little box, I think. We were more of a straight forward metal band and I think I found myself being more of a follower back then. Playing to everyone else´s rules. When “Blood” happened, everything fell apart and we were about to break up and in this new, liberating beginning that we had, we kinda let go of all those things and I started really growing into being proud of the woman I am, being confident, letting go of the fears, trying experimental things. We were putting ourselves in a box and that´s not the way to greatness. It has to be about the music in general and not being afraid and go our own way.
Lars Ulrich talked about “not making music for the fans”. How do you look at that? Can you as a band, stray far away from your sound or do you have to stay within the In This Moment sphere, so to speak?
Maria: When you say fans, exactly what fans are you talking about? Because there´s new fans and old fans and probably 85% of our new fans are brand new fans. I think any artist, no matter who you are or what your craft is; painter, director, musician, you don´t want to be predictable. You don´t wanna do the same thing over and over. You have to evolve and you have to grow and press yourself! We wanna progress and grow and keep people excited and captivated with us. We´ll always be who we are, because that´s us, so if you´re staying true to yourself, you´re staying true to the fans. It´s a big journey that we´re all taking together and if we´re not true to ourselves, you´ll hear that in the music. You know when somebody´s doing music and they don´t feel it, because it becomes empty.
How do you look at the band 10 years from now, especially the way the music business is now?
Maria: We´re lucky! Everyone says everything´s faltering in the music business, but knock on wood, every album that we´ve done has sold more than the previous one. Our last album was our biggest selling album. We´ve actually progressed and gone up every single time and I know we´re really, really go up with this album. I really know that this album´s gonna be our biggest album to date for sure. I understand, with the internet it doesn´t sell the way it used to, so you have to look at it in logical numbers that are like nowadays numbers. That´s why I focus so much on our show, because sales are becoming so hard these days, with Spotify and downloading and what not. If people buy into the band, you´ll always have tour that sells and you´ll always have that die hard base. I´m sure that in the future, people are gonna have to start coming up with something in the future where it´s not about sales anymore. It´ll be websites and how many hits does your website get when you release an album and that´s gonna determine how your band is doing. Who cares about how many albums you´ve sold when you have sold out arenas and you´re making money?
There´s gotta be more competition these days, since every single band is out touring?
Maria: Before we did this album, I watched all the dvd´s of all the big bands in the world, from Metallica to Madonna to Alice Cooper to Marilyn Manson. What are they doing that make people wanna go see them? I know we can do our own unique show that´s just as comparable, just as big and unique and I think that when it comes to that, aside from the music, you have to have that show. If they go see In This Moment, they´ll never see anything like that again. We just did a video and the label was there and they were freaking out, “This is just like Slipknot and Beyoncé combined!” We want people to say that they can´t even describe it.
Being a woman in this business, do you feel you´ve had to prove yourself a lot more than a man would have to?
Maria: I don´t think so. I think that that´s self inflicted. I fed into this story in my head that because I´m a girl it´s harder and no one´s taking me serious. I do know that actually trying to get into a heavier band, that was a bit more challenging, because they couldn´t hear me sing. It said “Inspiration: Pantera, Deftones, Korn. Looking for a singer!” and then I would call them and say “Hi, can I audition for your band?” and they were like “What? No!”. That part was tricky, but once you´re in the position to where you have that band and you´re out there, you have to not think like that anymore. If you think like that, I think you´re kinda creating that. If I just think “It doesn´t matter if I´m a girl or a guy, it comes down to what I have to offer?” When you´re there, it doesn´t matter what you look like or who you are. When you´re putting on a show and the music´s playing and you´re performing, that´s what´s gonna speak. Once you start performing, that´s the truth right there! Are you good or are you not? It´s all really in your personal mindset. I´ve had 500 people scream “Show me your tits!” at Ozzfest at the same time. I used to let that have power over me and I used to think that I had to be really tough and scream at the crowd and be like a boy, to be taken seriously. It was all bullshit! When I walk out on stage now, I´m confident. I know that they´re gonna love me, I know that I have my craft down and I´m in charge. They feel you and they know what´s authentic and if you´re insecure and questioning it, they know it. If you´re in charge and you just feel like “I own you, so you might as well ride the ride with me!”, they get it and they do. It´s all inside.
Av: Niclas Müller-Hansen