Interview with White Empress vocalist Mary Zimmer
From the dark, cavernous recesses of the twisted mind of former Cradle of Filth guitarist Paul Allender, comes his newest gift of possessed mayhem, White Empress. A year or so ago, the gifted composer began piecing together the line-up for his new project utilizing the talents of fellow Filther, Martin Škaroupka on drums.
Allender, a former U.K. resident who has since moved to the Twin Cities area of Minnesota, connected with Wisconsin-based vocalist Mary Zimmer, formerly of Luna Mortis. Originally he contacted her about playing keyboards and singing for a Cradle of Filth tour, but her schedule would not allow it. As Zimmer shared with Metalholic, she told Paul to keep her in mind for other projects. He gave her some of his White Empress demos and she was immediately enthused with the possibilities the music offered.
“It was a couple years post-Luna Mortis”, Zimmer offered, “and I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do. So I was really open to whatever. I checked it out and I was completely blown away by the music. I was like, ‘What is this?’ (laughs).”Zimmer, a classically trained vocalist, who is also a vocal coach, brought her versatile singing abilities to the band. Mary is readily able to scream and growl with the best of them, lay down beautiful cleans, thrash it up, or even get operatic if need be. She is something of jack-of-all-voices, giving the band a myriad of possible directions to move in. Allender recognized this right away and allowed Zimmer the freedom to create her own vocal lines and melodies, something the singer admits was a new experience for her.
“Will Graney is a phenomenal composer and arranger,” touts Mary. “He does all the strings and the choirs and all the industrial sounds on the record. That’s all Will. So we really have to hand it to him. I was just blown away by his writing–his work.”
When White Empress became frustrated while looking for a bassist, Zimmer reached out to former Coal Chamber member, Chela Rhea Harper. Like Zimmer, Harper was excited by the musical direction of the band, and was intrigued by the idea of joining a band from the beginning where her creative ideas could be included.
“She and I met back in the MySpace days,” shared Zimmer. “Right when we were looking for bass player–we kept checking people out, but nobody was really fitting what we wanted. We wanted a bass player, not a guitarist who could play bass–Chela had just left Coal Chamber. I was like she’s free, and I wanted to see what she was like, so I started checking out her interviews and her live performances, and I thought this woman is really professional and she talks really well about her instrument. I sent Paul some of her stuff, and he was like, ‘Contact her right away!’ So we got a hold of her and she loved the music.”
When Škaroupka announced he would not be joining the band, they found his replacement in Zac Morris (Silent Civilian, ex-Ugly Kid Joe). The final piece of the line-up came by way of Milwaukee-based guitarist Jeremy Kohnmann (The Awakening).
In a recent conversation with Chela Harper, the bassist shared that current GWAR vocalist Kim Dylla (aka Vulvatron) created the wardrobe for White Empress. Zimmer talked in detail about Dylla’s involvement:
“She did our first run of outfits, and I actually destroyed mine already. From our video shoots and photo shoots I’ve already ripped through it. (laughs) That was me being too crazy while i was wearing it. but she made some amazing costumes for us. She’s a brilliant designer.”
White Empress released its self-titled EP in early 2014, creating a major buzz in hard rock and metal circles. This was followed with the fall release of the full debut album, Rise of the Empress. Trying to label the sound of White Empress is an effort in futility. The band manages to thread a diverse palette of metal sub-genres together to create something altogether unique. As Zimmer shares:
“It’s really weird. I can’t describe it. I think Paul and I have pulled back to our roots. A lot of the crossover thrash and the hardcore and stuff, but at the same time we’ve got all these crazy synths and things, and industrial elements. Somehow we make it all together and it works. I listened to the record and it all flows. And I think it was the arranging and not being afraid to mix elements. So many bands get stuck in these sub genres but that’s pretty stale. Every sub genre has been done to death, and people are ready for something new.”
You can check out the full interview with Mary Zimmer below. you can also check out our interview with Paul Allender by Cyn at Metal Nation Radio, below as well.