The Commander-In-Chief is the first female metal 7-string guitarist-singer-songwriter. I was introduced to her by another rockin’ lady I’ve interviewed Tobi-lea. The Norwegian guitar goddess recorded her debut Evolution EP with Sterling Winfield who has worked with Pantera, Hellyeah and more! The CIC also speaks four languages and has lived in many countries contributing to her global perspective and song writing on current societal issues.
Total Guitar Magazine and Metal Hammer Magazine have named you, The New Queen of Shred; how do you feel about that title?
THE COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF: I think it’s awesome! In the latest issue of Metal Hammer I’m listed as 1 of 10 modern guitar Gods, and I like that even better, as it doesn’t have anything do to with gender, and I’m listed with a bunch of guys which I think it’s cool.
You are an official Ibanez artist; what does that mean to you?
TCIC: It means a great deal to me personally. When I started out playing I had no gear, just crappy stuff. If anyone had ever told me that I would get endorsement deals eventually, I would never have believed them. I never owned my own amp until I got an endorsement. So getting gear from great brands it’s awesome.
It was one of the happiest moments I think of my life so far to get the Falchion. One thing is to want something, such as an acquired skill, if you want to become good at something you can work towards this yourself. If you want a guitar or something, that boils down to whether or not someone wants to give it to you. So I was very flattered when I received it.
You play a prototype Falchion 7-string; what drew to playing a 7-string guitar as opposed to the traditional 6-string?
TCIC: Experimentation really, I thought it was cool, just tried it out & fell in love
How has your guitar mentor Ramon Ortiz helped you develop as a guitar player?
TCIC: Enormously. He gave me all these licks to study; we would spend a lot of the guitar lessons jamming. So much better that to just receive a whole bunch of scales from somebody. He’s a great mentor, when it comes to his experiences in the industry as well! And that’s good. Much better than to have a teacher who only knows theory, but haven’t been there done that.
A recent post on your Facebook read: my manager was right when she said that “they are afraid of losing their balls” when it comes to how some guys in the music business/media are ignoring me over here. Could you please elaborate on this? Do you feel like you are ignored because of your gender?
TCIC: Well, I did get very little press and hype before my Bloodstock performance, when it comes to press about me being about to make my festival debut there. Compared to a lot of other bands over here, which has a fraction of the buzz I have, it pissed me off that nobody wrote about it. But despite that, I ended up packing the huge tent and having a great audience for my entire set!! ….but anyway, I thought it was a fun post, especially after this review I got after my Bloodstock performance, where a guy wrote that “I have to fight my way through the crowd past the air-guitarists and go looking for my testicles” [laughs].
Both Sterling Winfield and my manager were convinced that a lot of people would be in denial after hearing my Evolution EP. Some people think there is a guy playing guitar on the record. But it’s me doing it all! I’ve only played guitar since 2005. I write all the songs and do all the singing. And there was no autotune at all whatsoever used in the studio. Sterling was really impressed which is why he insisted on making a statement about the recording, according to him, he had never recorded such complex material in such a short span of time. So it was really intense for him, and everyone else in the studio. Except from me who was wearing everyone out [laughs].
What has been one of your worst experiences with the music industry so far?
TCIC: It’s always annoying when you run into someone who namedrops like hell and then it turns out they don’t know shit and can’t do shit either. I think the most annoying thing I’ve experienced so far was last year. We hired a so-called PR agency to do PR for Paranoid. According to them you couldn’t get attention for a cover song. According to them I had to build down my FB and website, because I had too much going on apparently. We paid to get visibility and got invisibility instead. Funny thing is the guy who owns the company tried to take credit for my first Metal Hammer feature, which I received 3 months after we had fired him, and after I contacted the editor myself. You get a lot of egos in this industry and people being territorial, it’s retarded, quite honestly.
What’s been one of your best?
TCIC: Getting all of this press without being signed has been pretty awesome! It’s vital to get press attention to raise your profile among the ocean of unsigned bands out there. So yeah, getting exposure it the coolest thing so far.
You have mentioned that your manager was very concerned about you going into a totally male dominated genre as the first female solo artist; how did you feel going into a totally male dominated genre?
TCIC: Puh, I didn’t think about it for a second. I only hung out with guys in high school anyway, and I never thought of myself as an outsider. I don’t think much about what I do, I just do my thing.
Earlier this year you released your Evolution EP produced by Sterling Winfield (Pantera, Hellyeah); what are your most memorable moments from working with Sterling?
TCIC: All of it was cool. I think the best was his reaction when I did the first vocal take. When I came out of the singing booth and we were done with Evolution, he couldn’t believe how good it was. Apparently this asshole I had worked with in LA had told him I was horrible in the studio, so when Sterling heard how good I was, he was like “Wow!” In retrospect, I also think he wanted to make the statement he made about the recording to put the record straight. I know how to play and sing. He made a statement that most musicians could only dream about; it’s pretty much an endorsement. And I’m very grateful for that.
You’ve previously mentioned in an interview that both your and Sterling’s mission was to “do a totally organic recording”; what do you mean by organic recording? Why was this important to you?
TCIC: No technological shortcuts. No copy and paste. Do it over and over again until you get a real performance that hasn’t been enhanced in any way by technology. Apparently that’s a rare thing on heavy metal recordings [laughs].
You wrote the song Let It Go to your younger brother and you dedicated it to anyone who is being bullied and/or struggles with depression; growing up is bullying or depression something you personally dealt with too?
TCIC: No, not really. But I was always in the corner of those who got bullied, which sometimes got me into trouble as well. For me the most important thing is to do what’s right. I don’t follow trends and I don’t give a shit what everybody else is doing to be honest.
Many of your songs are about current issues in society; what’s something that you see happening in the world that more people should know about?
TCIC: That, you will hear in any new lyrics, so keep a track on any new material, and you will know.
What was the last song you wrote and where were you when you wrote it?
TCIC: That I cannot remember. The creative process is a mess; my songs are not really done until they have been recorded in the studio. That’s when I finally let a song go. That’s when I’m the most happy actually. At this point I got lots of bits and pieces lying around, a lot to finish up on. Toxic which is a new song, is not really done either as none of the guitar solos are done yet – only sketches and ideas.
What’s your biggest challenge in regards to songwriting?
TCIC: Finishing the lyrics. I will have lots and lots of ideas and all kinds of stuff written down all over the place. It always takes me sometime before I get this ‘eureka’ moment when everything falls into place. The moments when I write my lyrics, are moments of total clarity, when everything just falls into place and I just sit down, write the lyric, get it done.
You’ve travelled a lot and lived in many countries; is there anywhere that you call home?
TCIC: Wherever there is a cosy house with a room that is mine. I like the U.S. and the U.K.
Is there a place in the world you’ve travelled or lived to that has had a big impact on you?
TCIC: Chicago, without a doubt. I don’t think I would have pursued music in such a way if I hadn’t gone there. I wouldn’t have called myself The CIC either.
Outside of music what are some things that you like to do? Do you have any other creative outlets?
TCIC: Visual arts, designing. I haven’t done that for some time. I’m always creative, both in a good or bad way [laughs].
What’s next for The Commander-In-Chief?
TCIC: Pledge to my pledge project. I need a big tour, that’s what I need.
For more The Commander-In-Chief.
Have a kick ass day!
*Photo credit: photo #1 shot by fashion photographer Karel Losenicky in Milan, Italy, May 2011. Uniform jacket by Diva Couture.