An Interview with Marta Gabriel of Crystal Viper

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Marta Gabriel from Crystal Viper | Rockers Den

Europe has long been a haven for Heavy Metal, and the passing of time isn’t changing that one bit. If you’re into classic Heavy Metal, then today you’re in luck as I’ve got Marta Gabriel, the leader of Crystal Viper with us for a chat. The band has a new record out, which is called The Cult and it’s pretty monstrous if I don’t say so myself. Don’t believe me? Hear it for yourself via their website here, or Listenable Records’ Bandcamp here.

As for this interview, Marta and I talk about the early “cursed” days of Crystal Viper, the band’s evolution, her favorite music and much more. Good talk. Dig it.

Andrew:
Marta, thank you for taking the time to speak with us. This last year has been rough, right? How are you holding up during this seemingly ever-raging dumpster fire?

Marta:
Well, it’s not easy and I’m not pretending that everything is fine, but at the same time I know there are many people who are in a way worse situation, so I’m not complaining. I try to focus on creative things, and I try to use that time in a best possible way.

Andrew:
Tell us about your backstory. What was your musical gateway so to speak?

Marta:
I started my musical journey as a kid. I was literally 7 years old when I saw an orchestra on TV, and I told my parents that I want to play. Thankfully, they took it seriously, and they sent me to a music school, to piano class. Then when I was a teenager, I discovered Rock and Metal, and bands such as Scorpions, Black Sabbath, Maiden, Priest and so on, and I decided to start my own Heavy Metal band.

Andrew:
As an artist, vocalist and guitarist, who are some of your earliest and most important influences? How did you develop your signature sound?

Marta:
I think I would need to start from Mike Oldfield here. I was literally growing up with his music, playing his songs and so on. Then when it comes to Rock and Metal it would be the bands I mentioned before. As for the influences – surely vocalists such as Rob Halford, Bruce Dickinson, Tony Martin, Dio, and the female vocalists such as Doro, Leather Leone or Jutta Weinhold. And I would also need to mention Glenn Tipton, who is my absolutely favorite guitarist. I don’t know if we can really talk about my signature sound, but I just do my thing, I never tried to copy someone else.

CRYSTAL VIPER Announce New Album, “Tales Of Fire And Ice” | Metal Shock  Finland (World Assault )

Andrew:
Let’s talk about Crystal Viper. You founded the band in 2003, right? Tell us the story of how the band came together.

Marta:
Both right and not exactly right. I was singing with some local bands since my teenage years, then around 2003 I decided to start my own band. That’s when the Crystal Viper name came to life, but for the next few years it was more like a “project,” I was looking for right people to join me. The first official line up of Crystal Viper was established in 2006, so that’s the real beginning of the band.

Andrew:
As you mentioned, Crystal Viper’s first official line up didn’t full come together until 2006, and your debut album, The Curse of Crystal Viper didn’t come out until 2007. Why did it take a few years for the band to fully settle in so to speak?

Marta;
The Curse Of Crystal Viper was officially released in early 2007, on both CD and on vinyl – in 2009 we were promoting our second album, Metal Nation. As for the gap between 2003 and end of 2006, when we recorded our debut: I simply couldn’t find right people. There were some really talented musicians coming and going, but it was really hard to find people who wanted to play the same what I wanted to play, the traditional Heavy Metal. Some of them wanted to play Nu Metal, which was very popular back then, others wanted to add Jazz or Prog elements, others wanted to play Pantera covers and so on.

Andrew:
Let’s talk more about The Curse of Crystal Viper. Looking back, what are your thoughts on your debut? How has it held up for you? What do you recall about the recording process?

Marta:
I like it and I respect it; that’s our debut, and everything started there. Actually, it’s title was like an inside joke: the curse of Crystal Viper. It took me so long to find right people and complete the line up of the band, that I was sometimes thinking that it’s a curse, and that I will never make it. So, when it finally happened, we recorded the album, and signed the deal, we felt like it’s the end of the curse (laughs). Recording process: I remember we were very poor back then, we had to borrow money to pay for the recording session, and as we had no money to borrow tube amps to take them to the studio, we ended up using old 100W combo from our rehearsal room to record the guitars. The cymbals we had were in really bad shape, with huge cracks, and the drum heads we had were in such bad shape they barely survived the recording session. We had no car, so our friends were helping us to get to the studio. But things like that make you stronger, it was a great life lesson.

Andrew:
Fast forward to current events, and Crystal Viper has a new record, The Cult, which came out January 29th, right? Tell us more about your latest record. How has the band evolved to where it is today, compared to earlier years? What’s changed?

Marta:
Well, it’s our 8th album, so I would say situation when we record a new album and then play shows around it is a natural process for us, but this time it was different. The Cult is the first album in the history of Crystal Viper that we recorded without seeing each other, without working together in the studio. I mean we were in constant contact, we exchanged thousands of emails, messages and calls, then we were sending all the tracks between each other, but we haven’t met all together. Members of Crystal Viper live in 3 different countries, in Poland in Germany and in Sweden, and it was, and it still is, impossible to travel without the risk of being quarantined. For the same reason we don’t have proper music video to promote the album, and no new band photos. It’s also our first album with our new drummer, Cederick, who joined us at the end of 2019.

Andrew:
More on your new record. What was the inspiration in songwriting? Is the lyrical content personal? Or are these only stories so to speak?

Marta:
The Cult is not a concept album, but actually all the lyrics are linked, as they were all inspired by the works of H.P. Lovecraft. He’s probably my favorite writer ever, and the impact his works have had on pop culture is outstanding. I also dare to say, that fans of his works will like our album, as we can say it’s one big tribute to his legacy. So no, this time lyrics doesn’t have any deeper, personal meaning.

Andrew:
How about the production side of things? Does the band self-produce, or where outside sourced brought in to help hone the bands sound?

Marta:
All our albums, including the new one, were produced by Bart Gabriel, who in private life is my husband. He is this kind of producer that always tries to capture the essence of the band, the essence of what we (or other bands he work with) are all about. Our previous albums were all mixed by different people, the new one was mixed by our drummer Cederick, who worked with Bart. So, it’s those two guys who are responsible for how our new album sounds.

Marta Gabriel - Crystal Viper | Rock and roll girl, Female guitarist,  Female musicians

Andrew:
Shifting gears a bit now. Despite the incredible work of amazing organizations such as Women Who Rock and Women In Vinyl, women are still drastically underrepresented within the music industry as a whole. How do we go about empowering more women and enacting positive change?

Marta:
I honestly don’t know. I mean, there are many great and talented female musicians out there, but you are right, the Metal scene and music scene in general, are dominated by men. I personally don’t care if someone is a male or female, I care if someone is a good musician and if I like his or her music, and for the same reason I never felt that I should behave in any special way, and I never demanded any special or different treatment only because I’m a woman. I just do my thing, I follow my dreams, I wanna rock, I wanna play Heavy Metal. That’s what makes me happy, and that’s what I wanna do – share my music with the world. So if any girl out there feels the same way, then just go for it. Believe in yourself, work hard, and don’t give up.

Andrew:
Touring is usually a huge part of a working artists proverbial machine, but as we know, COVID has disallowed it. What do you miss most about touring?

Marta:
The energy of the people, the magic. I was recently asked if I would like to play one of those streamed shows, without the crowd. Sure, I can do that, I love playing, but it’s not the same. When you’re on stage, and there are people in front of you, people who enjoy your music, there is this bond, this energy, the magic. So yeah, I miss the crowds, the people, I miss sharing music with the people.

Andrew:
One disturbing fact I’ve learned over time is that Spotify doesn’t pay artists well, if at all. What are your thoughts on that issue? How do we as fans do our part to help?

Marta:
Well, the situation has its pros and cons. I always try to focus on positive things, so I won’t be commenting the money issue, but I would say it helps with promotion of the band. You know, the more people will discover your band, the more people will come to your shows. Thankfully, Metal fans are still very loyal, they keep on buying concert tickets, they keep on buying CDs and vinyls, T-shirts and so on. That’s what really helps, that’s what matters, and that’s what allows bands to exist. Fans are the most important part of the scene, and they can do a lot more to support the artists they like. Buying physical product is one thing, but they can support artists in many other ways – by sharing their news on their social media, commenting on their posts, sharing their music with friends. It all really helps when bands see and feel they’re not alone.

Crystal Viper promises Tales Of Fire And Ice

Andrew:
In a world dominated by late stage capitalism and social media, can artists really, truly get ahead? How do we keep the playing field level so that everyone has a chance to succeed?

Marta:
First of all, you need to determine what’s a success for you, what you want to achieve. My goal always was, and still is, writing music, performing, sharing my music with the people. I’m an artist. Do I make a lot of money on it? No, I don’t. But it’s not and never was about the money, it’s about enjoying yourself, enjoying life, and sharing the gift of music. So, for one person it would be a success to have a band and play once a week for friends in a local pub, and for someone else, being successful would mean selling million albums and selling out arenas. We live in weird and fake times, when popularity is counted with “likes” under your photo or views on YouTube, although even that isn’t necessary real, as it’s no big secret you can buy “likes” or followers on your Social Networks. Of course if someone feels good with something like that, then great, go for it. But I have different priorities, and I try to follow my own path.

Andrew:
Are you into records? Tapes? CDs? Digital? Where do you like to shop for music?

Marta:
Yes I am, we still keep on buying records and CDs with my husband. I’m a fan, I support my favorite artists and I buy their music. It doesn’t really matter where I buy, sometimes it’s a local record store, sometimes it’s a mail order, or a booth at a festival – I just prefer the physical product, with an artwork, booklet with lyrics and so on. The full and real experience.

Andrew:
What are a few albums that mean the most to you and why?

Marta:
It would be impossible to list only few, as I really love music and I listen to a lot of different genres of music. I listen to a lot of things, I like Classic Rock and bands like Uriah Heep or Led Zeppelin. I listen to a lot of Blues, I love Nina Simone. Then of course, Hard Rock and Heavy Metal, where I love my Scorpions, Judas Priest and Iron Maiden albums as well as Black Sabbath and Manilla Road. I like Thrash Metal where I would list Slayer and Testament as my favorite bands. I’m into Black and Death Metal…so no, it would be impossible to list only few albums.

Marta Gabriel: Crystal Viper - Witch's Mark 2012

Andrew:
Who are some of your favorite artists? Ones that mean the most to you.

Marta:
I would list two. First one would be Mike Oldfield, and the second one would be Glenn Tipton, who is my absolutely favorite guitarist.

Andrew:
Last question. What advice would you have for young artists just starting out? How do they stay afloat in a world that seems to be so abhorrent to creatives?

Marta:
Do your own thing and do not give up. Do your best, don’t try to copy someone else, find your own way. Practice, find mistakes, fix them, and then practice even more. And do what makes you happy.

Marta Gabriel (Crystal Viper)

Interested in diving deeper into the work of Crystal Viper? Check out the link below:

Dig this interview? Check out the full archives of Vinyl Writer Interviews, by Andrew Daly, here: www.vinylwritermusic.com/interview

Published by Andrew Daly

Since he was a young child growing up on Long Island, NY, Andrew has always loved writing and collecting physical music. After losing his life-long vinyl collection in 2014, Andrew began his vinyl collection from scratch again when he met his future wife Angela in 2015. Andrew’s love of music only further blossomed as his collection spanned all genres possible. After amassing 5,000 albums, Andrew knew it was time to finally follow his dream, and thus, Vinyl Writer Music was born. Present-day, Andrew is proud to share his love of music with the world through his writing, and the result is nothing short of beautiful: articles and interviews written by a music addict, for fellow music addicts. Andrew lives on Long Island with his wife Angela and their four cats, Oliver, Patrick, Charlie, and Kevin. Andrew works as a Horticultural Operations Manager by day and runs the Vinyl Writer Music website by night. Andrew is also the admin of several Facebook groups dedicated to music.

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