Interview with Melissa Ferlaak

—From Our Archives— *Old Interview*

Interviewed By Jessica Clingempeel

At what age did you start singing? When did you realize you wanted to be a singer?

When I was very young, but didn’t think of being a professional singer until college. I’d always loved music, but in high school, was training to be a professional figure skater actually.

How did you get into the metal scene?

Through Earl Root, guitarist for Aesma Daeva and my dearest metal brother. He introduced me to the music (prior to that, I hadn’t even really known that metal still existed!) and I instantly fell in love with it and it became my favorite genre of music.

What would we most likely find you listening to after waking up?

Gosh, depends on the day. Right now I have Amy Winehouse, Rasputina, Ulver and Wolfpack Unleashed in my car so generally those lately.

Have you done any or thought of doing any Operas? What is your favorite opera?

Yes, I’ve performed in quite a few operas (Hansel and Gretel, Candide, Seijo, La Boheme) and many opera scene programs. My favorites would be Penderecki’s “Devils of Loudin”, Puccini’s “La Boheme” and “La Rondine”, R. Strauss, “Salome” and Wagner’s “Die Walkurie”. I could actually go on about my favorite operas…there are many.

How did you find Aesma Daeva and what is the story with them?

John and I went to school in River Falls, WI together, we were both music majors. I was actually quite intimidated by him at first…he was the guy on campus who actually had a recording and a very cool group that all the singers wanted to sing with. I think it was between my junior and senior year that he asked me to record on Eros. I was blown away he even knew my singing! Haha! So, after I moved to Boston to go to school there, John called me up and said he wanted to make AD a band and play shows and asked me to sing. So for four years I did that. The end, well, it was just time for a change. The VoA gig got offered to me and it felt right at that time to end my days with AD and move to VoA.

What about Visions of Atlantis? The beginning and ending…

VoA was introduced to me through a mutual contact to Napalm Records. I liked the direction I heard they wanted to take (I thought songs like Realm of Fantasy needed to be stricken from the earth forever…. So we got going on that, did an album that was heavier than the rest and was with them for 2 years. The end, well, I’ve pretty much said what the end was. And the end has really just been a new beginning.

On a personal level, has there been any one song that you’ve sung that has really connected with you? If so, what and how?

Well, Return to You from VoA, which I wrote about my niece. Its extremely personal and very hard for me to sing and even listen to. Its just too personal and brings up emotions of the event that happened that she was taken from us here. With AD, Since the Machine was always a good one to sing because it is so relevant to our world today, even if it was based on the book 1984.

Do you like touring? How does it reflect on your personal life and being away from home for so long?

I like doing shows, I like touring too. I like seeing new places, but on some tours, its hard to see the places you are playing. I generally like traveling a lot.

What are you plans for the future?

Wolfgang and I are writing for a new album currently…though we are taking it a bit slow because our personal lives are a bit busy at the moment. : ) but once the wedding is over, we will be focusing on music a lot more with plans to release an album with a new group by the end of the year.

I know a lot of singers of techniques for preparations before shows; do you have any techniques, rituals, etc.?

I try to stay relaxed. I get really anxious to get on stage, not scared, just super excited. So I have to try and keep those in check. Right before going on stage, I try to meditate to ground myself, connect with my band mates and connect energy with the audience. I also do the usual vocal warm ups, stretching and doing makeup and hair.

Do you still see yourself in the music business ten years from now?

Of course. Its what my life has been dedicated to. Though I don’t imagine I will be in the metal world anymore (will be too old I think), but the classical world more probably.

Have you always wanted to be a singer or are there other goals you have in life?

I’ve had many goals. Originally in college my major was elementary music education, I wanted to teach kids to sing and play music. And currently as the Education Manager of the MN Shubert Center, I’m still realizing that goal by helping to provide free dance and music education to schools throughout Minnesota as well as giving private singing lessons. The goal to sing professionally is of course something I will always have in my life as well.

As a kid, what did you listen to and who were your role models?

Oh god…um, I loved Dolly Parton and Crystal Gail…as a child you tend to listen to what your parents listen to though. When I started picking out my own music, I loved Poison (the whole men in drag thing rocked my world), Samantha Fox, Paula Abdul (such a child of the 80s). Strangely though I also used to get the kids together in the neighborhood to “stage” the Phantom of the Opera. I was in love with Sarah Brightman and Michael Crawford and the whole dark love story. I remember performing it in my garage for our parents. Haha! I can imagine it wasn’t the best performance of the musical in history. Teenage years…I really got into Indigo Girls, and Grrrl rock.

Are there any singers you would like to work with? Maybe duet?

Well, the last two years, my life was nothing but duets with Mario. I have recorded two duets for a band called Withering Soul and another called Drachen with another recording on the way with a band from Croatia. But I’m always open to duet work.

Now moving onto training. Have you had any vocal training? If so, how long and what school(s) did you attend?

Yup. Bachelor degree from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls and Masters from New England Conservatory in Boston, MA in Vocal Performance, Opera Emphasis. Since then I’ve trained with various coaches and teachers here.

Are there certain drinks or food you avoid to keep your voice strong?

No. Though I don’t have any dairy before singing because it mucks up my throat and I definitely don’t drink before going on stage. But no, I’m not particularly sensitive to food, drink or much actually in general.

Do you have any family members who are also in the music business?

Nope. Well, my godfather is a polka accordion player.

~Personal Issues~

Sex & Love, well how is your love life going? Also, what do you feel, as a woman, should our limitations be to sex? Prostitution, Public display, etc.?

Haha, love life is going well! Getting married in 2 weeks!

Hm, limitations…well, I don’t know. Everyone woman is unique and I cant possibly put myself in the mind of a prostitute or stripper. I don’t understand it but I’m not about to chastise it. I think people should make decisions on their own about whats best for them, BUT should always ask themselves if they would regret that decision later.

Fortune & Fame, nowadays for many celebrities and plain folks like myself, it is all about the money and who is the best. How do you feel about this issue?

I think that is a shit attitude. I mean, yeah you gotta live, you gotta keep your ass out of debt and you have to have food to eat. But to place your sole existence on making money and the attitude of ‘he who makes the most money is the best’ is trash. See my blog on What is Success and you can see what my thoughts on that are.

Looks, a lot of people are pressured to be thin or to be beautiful and the best and because of it a lot of people are turned away from their dreams, what are your feelings to that? Do you believe in plastic surgery and anything related to this?

I think it is sad people place so much emphasis on appearance when we have so many other issues that are not self-centric in the world. Sure I would like to have bigger boobs but I would much rather spend that money on donating to a cause like keeping arts education in the schools or eliminating non-Hodgkins Lymphoma which my best friend suffers from. I think people should look at the things that REALLY matter in the world, and spend less time on focusing on their personal appearance.

Friends, do you still talk to any from before you became famous?

First, I’m not famous. Second, of course I do. And not just friends from the past, but new friends that I’ve met on the road as well. Meeting new people is one of my favorite things and creating new friendships is the cherry on the cake. But I do spend a lot of time with my closest and dearest friends and family.

Children, how do you feel about them and do you have or want any?
What about abortion?

Yup, definitely want 2 or 3 of them. : ) I love kids and have 11 nieces and nephews. Abortion, again a personal choice. Who am I to judge someone’s situation?

Violence, do you feel the people (presidents, government, courts, etc) have done all they can to eliminate the craziness in the world today or do you think there is more they can do?

I think the leaders need to move onto other tactics, such as conversations, talking out issues and differences. I think people don’t believe in the power of words anymore, which is sad. I hate violence/war, I don’t understand it. I’ve never been a violent person so I cannot possibly understand why someone would resort to such barbaric behavior.

Religion, are you a very religious person and what are your beliefs?

I used to follow a pretty rigid Wiccan belief, but now I guess I would call myself spiritual. I think all religions preach the same message for the most part, but all carry hypocrisies that I just cannot accept. So I guess I consider myself spiritual, that’s all. I just believe that you should treat others and the earth with respect and treat yourself with respect. It also feels like maybe if people would stop looking up at the clouds looking for heaven, and started looking right in front of them, here, on earth, and MAKE earth your heaven, we might have less conflict in the world.

Abuse, be it spousal or child abuse, do you think justice for abusers and molesters should be more severe than it is?

Well, that is hard. right now, there is a movement to allow the death penalty for child rapists. In some places, there isn’t any justice for such abuses. I don’t believe in violence, but I do believe in experience and I feel sometimes that if someone does something like rape a person, that person should find out what that feels like back. Eye for an eye I guess. I don’t know, I’m not really qualified to answer that question really….but if I was in a situation where I was raped, or my child was raped, I would want that person to suffer the same as I did. Maybe it would change their thinking in a more profound way.

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