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Julia Roberts’ Global Warning Interview

Julia Roberts’ Global Warning isn’t fronted by the Pretty Woman star; rather, the group features Sandy Kruger on vocals and Julia S. Roberts on guitar. The bassist Brook Hodges and drummer Matt Schindelar make up the male half of the band. In less than half a year, Global Warning has put together some pretty great songs, and its status as one of few prominent female-fronted progressive metal bands in Ohio won’t go unnoticed. Its members have previously played in multiple successful groups. Notably, songs from Julia S. Roberts’ former project Driven Steel were played on radio stations in the US, Belgium, Germany, and Holland. The frontwomen of Julia Roberts’ Global Warning talked to Queens of Noise about the origins of the band, the group’s songwriting process, and their musical dreams.

How long have you all been playing or singing?
Sandy: Since I can remember.
Julia: I’ve been singing all my life and playing guitar since I was about 12 or 14, something like that!

What inspired you all to start making music, especially metal?
Sandy: My love for music. Angst, aggression, attitude, and creative dynamics – [metal caused me] to be able to express that vocally. Metal was a natural transition for me coming out of the hard rockin’ ’70s.
Julia: I grew up with music and always loved it. I like a wide variety of music, but metal and hard rock were the genres I mainly identified with growing up. I’ve always loved the energy and aggression in metal.

Have any musicians in particular inspired you?
Sandy: Many have. Various bands from the 60’s & 70’s for vocal harmonies. I like singers with some balls (chick balls too, lol!) to their vocals: Dio, Bruce Dickenson [of Iron Maiden], Klaus Meine [of The Scorpions], Rob Halford [of Judas Priest], Ian Gillan [of Deep Purple], Eric Adams, Doug Ingle, and Doro Pesch, to name a few. Nightwish-style vocals do not belong in metal, in my opinion.
Julia: I was inspired by Joan Jett probably first off, but mainly male guitarists since there really weren’t many great guitarists that were women in [rock and metal]. I respect Lita Ford for what she did, but I wasn’t really influenced much by her playing. My main guitar influences are Eddie Van Halen, Yngwie Malmsteen, Jimmy Page, and Randy Rhoads, but I have many many more – too many to mention! I think Jennifer Batten is one of the best female guitarists I’ve heard, but she’s not metal/rock. I also was inspired by Nancy Wilson of Heart. She’s very underrated as a guitarist.

Julia, your tapping is wonderful. How did you learn how to do that?
Julia: Thank you! I would say Eddie Van Halen made it popular, and it was very much a part of any guitarist’s vocabulary in the ’80s and ’90s. I just practiced like anyone else! I find it comes pretty natural.

How did this band get started?
Julia: Sandy Kruger heard my music on a local college radio station here in Cleveland called the WJCU 88.7 FM “Metal on Metal” show with Bill Peters back in summer 2011. Sandy contacted me to see if we could ever get a band together, and she contacted Matt “Flammable” Schindelar to see if he would be interested in drums, and I had a friend contact Brook Hodges and [he] told me he was interested in playing bass. It all came together in March 2012 when we officially started practicing as a unit. Matt is currently in another band called Destructor, and Brook is finishing up a gig in Germany with his band Breaker soon.

Sandy: I was listening to Bill Peter’s Metal on Metal (WJCU 88.7 FM) radio show one Friday night [in] July 2011 and heard “Show Me.” The song caught my attention. I thought the guitar work was tasteful, classy and brilliant! I found Julia’s Facebook page and messaged her, asking her who played on the track, thinking she just did the vocals. When she messaged me back and told me she played all guitars on the track, I freaked! She said she was thinking of putting a band together and was hoping to find a bass player that could sing. I told her how much I liked her guitar work and commented [that it was] too bad I can’t play bass. She told me she never wanted to front a band and things started rolling from there. She came to one of my Black Death gigs at Ripper Owen’s Tap House and liked what she saw and heard. We started putting the band together in January. Matt came on board in February and Brook in March. Things have been moving very quickly ever since. We have some amazing musical chemistry in this band.

Why did you choose your band name?
Julia: I chose the band name because Julia Roberts is already famous, so why not capitalize on that, as it is my birth name after all? And the band is showcasing many of the songs I’ve already wrote, which are being retooled by this new band, almost like getting closure on the past and then moving forward. ‘Global Warming’ is a very popular albeit controversial phenomenon, and I thought it would be a fun play on words. “Global Warning” was very metal sounding and kind of foreboding, like “Watch out! Here we come!” And the band was good with it!

The two women fronting your band certainly stand out in the metal scene, if only because the metal scene is so dude-oriented. I’ve personally noticed that a lot of the women who do get publicity in metal mags tend to be very sexualized. Have stereotypes about women affected your shows or the way your band is perceived in any way? Do you want to contest them at all?
Julia: I would say that we are more about the music than creating some sort of “fluffy” image that I tend to see with other bands who are more concerned with looks than music. So far, the reaction has been great. We’ve only done 3 gigs so far in Cleveland, so it’s hard to tell. I know that not all men are into women in metal, but we’ll see if we can change that perception here! I think having a mixed gender band is a cool way to go, showing that men and women can work together in a metal band.

How does the songwriting process work for your group?
Julia: Most of the songs have already been written by me and my former bassist, Kelley Heckart (from Driven Steel), and we are just finishing those up before we move into the songwriting phase with this band. It was important for me to finish what I started with my old songs, as I felt they were important to finish. I’m on a mission, and the band is on board! Brook [the bassist] and I are working on a new song idea of his, and also tweaking more of my older songs from previous demos and unreleased songs like “In Your Sleep” (about a woman’s perspective on domestic violence) and “Born to Rock” (a rock anthem).

Do you still have day jobs, or are you full time musicians?
Julia: We all have day jobs, unfortunately! But our goal is to become full time musicians. Each one of us has a strong passion for music and performing!

As of right now, you’re unsigned. What kind of label do you want to sign with eventually?
Julia: Any label that has enough pull in the industry to promote the hell out of us, get us a great producer who understands our sound and hard rock/metal music, and that can put us on some big tours with some of our hero bands! And enough money for us to make it as full-time musicians in the industry. I’m not greedy; [I] just want to only do music and be in the entertainment industry.

What’s some of your favorite music to listen to?
Julia: I really like the new Rush and Van Halen albums, really great stuff. And other newer bands I like are Mastodon, Tool, Disturbed, Shinedown, Foo Fighters, and many others. I’m just going off the top of my head right now. The new Megadeth is good too.

Sandy:  Classic 80’s metal: Saxon, Priest, all things Dio, Sabbath, UFO, Scorpions, [Iron] Maiden, Mercyful Fate, Witchfinder General, Pentagram, Trouble, Manowar, Warlock, Accept, Anvil, Testament, Slayer, and Exodus. Also, FuManchu, The Donnas, 60’s garage rock, Iron Butterfly, and the Yardbirds. I also like local Cleveland bands: Destructor, Venomin James, Black Death, Suede Brothers, Shades of Remembrance – the list goes on…

Where do you want this band to take you eventually?
Julia: As I said, I want this band to get out of Cleveland and get on tour with a major band, one of our heroes or a newer band that has some balls. And I definitely want to make a full-length album, hopefully one of many. I just want our music to be heard and promoted on a global scale. I love inspiring other women [and] girls to play guitar and know that they can do whatever the hell they want to in this life! We are ready to rock the world! Bring it on!!

You should check out Julia Roberts’ Global Warning on Facebook, ReverbNation and YouTube. Stay tuned for their debut album!

Bassist of the Month: Jo Bench

Jo Bench is one of the few and the proud, a woman who has been playing death metal since the genre’s inception. A member of classic band Bolt Thrower since 1987, Bench provides a good portion of the dark, heavy tones that lend the band its brutality.

Says Jo Bench about her work in Bolt Thrower, “My main purpose since day one was not to draw attention to the fact I’m a woman, and that has helped me massively. I feel like just another musician in the band, and have been treated as such, and I think that has gained me more respect in the long run. I’m very grateful for that.” This approach certainly worked. I’ve seen Bolt Thrower fans on metal forums who had no idea that the band’s bassist was a woman. Her determination to avoid attention based on gender has led fans to focus on something more important: her music. And what awesome music it is, too.

Here are some great Bolt Thrower songs:

Underrated Band of the Month: Phantom Blue

(Everybody, thanks for bearing with me while I took last month off. Here’s a little something to tide you over.)

I’m not gonna lie; Phantom Blue is one of the reasons why I did my grad project on women in the music industry. I discovered them and thought, “Dude, this band is really awesome. Why haven’t I heard of them before?” Their music sounded so great that the only reason I could see why they weren’t more popular was because they were all-female. That thought made me want to research sexism in the music industry.

Phantom Blue has a great classic metal sound, drawing more on thrash and grunge influences in their later work. Unfortunately, their original guitarist, Michelle Meldrum, died of  “a cystic growth on her brain that had restricted oxygen and blood flow to her brain, rendering her braindead” in 2008. Their most recent lineup is radically different from the original one, and their website appears defunct. I was unable to contact them and ask whether or not they’re still active. While we wait for more news, please check out some of their awesome music.

Quotes of the Month: Musicians (September)

“The biggest challenge [of being a female guitarist] is that people tend to assume a guy is doing all the cool stuff that is exciting and the girl must be doing the background stuff. To change that we need female guitarists taking the spotlight every chance they get, playing their hearts out, having their own style, setting new standards.”
–Anita Robinson of Viva Voce in an interview on ultimate-guitar.com

“When I saw that [Led Zeppelin opening for The Who], believe it or not, an eleven-year-old girl said to herself at that point, ‘This is what I want to do.’ That was it, it changed everything for me, everything. We went to see them at Meriweather Post Pavilion, and among one of the most memorable, biggest thrills of my life is that, eleven or twelve years later, I actually got to play on that stage.”

–Gina Schock of The Go-Go’s

“I don’t think [what I’ve done for women in metal is] only my achievement, though. I think it’s the achievement of a band called Arch Enemy — four guys deciding to get a female singer. I think they did the ground-breaking work; they obviously had to get me in the band. They didn’t see any difference in male or female, they just wanted a good singer. It’s cool to be open-minded nowadays.”

–Angela Gossow of Arch Enemy

“Do it for yourself. Don’t do it because it seems cool. And don’t do it to get confirmation. It’s hard because you either have people who like you because they think you’re hot or you have people who hate you because you’re a girl. But if you’re doing it because you love it and it’s what you love to do, then it’s not hard.”
–Haley Williams of Paramore in The Girl’s Guide to Rocking